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Prof.’s grant from IBM may Jazz up collaboration

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Computer science students are used to gathering in the Center for Information Technology to work intensely on class projects. A new program a computer science professor will soon begin to test may allow students to collaborate more easily on projects – from their dorm rooms.

Professor of Computer Science Steven Reiss recently won a $25,000 award to test IBM’s Jazz platform for collaborative software development, according to Karen Lilla, the media relations manager for IBM’s Rational Software division. She said IBM awarded a total of $150,000 to five universities.

Jazz is a platform for software development that facilitates geographically diverse teams, Lilla said. “Jazz is a technology and a community,” shesaid, adding that the platform allows for real-time collaboration across large areas.

Lilla explained that the grants will fund new ways to use the Jazz platform, which will be released this June as a product called Rational Team Concert.

“Right now universities and other organizations are using Jazz technology in its early stages,” Lilla said, adding that the platform had only been opened in January.

Though Reiss said he has not yet used the software, his proposal detailed a plan for using Jazz to help teaching assistants keep track of many different projects in their class groups. “We’re going to see what it can do, and if facilities are needed, we’ll create new facilities,” Reiss said.

Any extensions Reiss and his team create will be provided to IBM for possible inclusion in future versions of the Rational Team software.

The grant was awarded based on criteria including the innovation of the proposal, the research track records of the applicants, and how the research would advance the Jazz technology, Lilla said.

Though the award decisions were made before Christmas, Reiss said, the information was only made available publicly on March 17. Lilla said the grant is part of IBM’s tradition of working with the academic community.

“It’s important for IBM to provide its industry-leading technology to students. They know that the software developers and students that are taking computer science classes now are going to be the software leaders of tomorrow,” Lilla said.

Reiss, who said he has received grants from IBM before, explained that he developed his grant proposal with the concept of allowing teaching assistants to oversee many different projects at once, wherever they had internet available. “What I thought would be interesting was to let the TAs use the collaboration facility in Jazz,” to track student’s projects remotely.

Reiss said that Jazz also has the potential to allow students to work on projects anywhere on campus, instead of having to meet regularly in the CIT. “Each student has their own schedule. Some like working during the day, some like working at night,” Reiss said. “It’s hard to get the whole project together, and this is a way of doing that type of collaboration where you don’t have to have them together,” he added.

Reiss is planning on hiring research assistants this summer to participate in the research. At this point the platform is only available on a temporary server, Reiss said. He also said he plans on making Jazz available to any interested students, though he does not expect that any non-computer science concentrators will use the programming software. “I’m happy to make Jazz available to anyone who wants to use it,” he said.

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