Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Disrupting Class



Thursday, October 09, 2008

Welcome to The Cave

There is an oft-overlooked corner of the University Technology Office called The Cave.  It’s a small, cramped room buzzing with energy, and the student developers who labor within its walls are responsible for making it one of the most productive pieces of real estate on campus.

Like the cave dwellers in Plato's The Parable of the Cave, who face challenges as they encounter a larger reality, ASU’s cave dwellers must solve significant problems as they work to create a remarkable technological reality.

But unlike Plato's cave dwellers, who prefer the familiar darkness and regularity of their surroundings, ASU's student spelunkers are enthusiastically lighting the path to a new and innovative way of presenting information using Dashboards. Dashboards increase the visibility of ASU by organizing and presenting complex data and information in a way that is easy to understand and visually appealing, as shown below:


The Fact Book presents a summary of information, including student, employee, and enrollment data and resource information such as typical student costs and sponsored project awards.


In Plato’s allegory, the cave dwellers equate the path to enlightenment with madness and danger, but thanks to UTO’s Enterprise Data Services Team, including Kelly BrinerDon ChiurazziBala Gurrala, Senh Luu, John Rome, and the Cave Dwellers -- Guruprasad Ayyaswamy Balasubramaniam, AJ Fairfield, Shikha Khetan, Venkatesh Mandalapa, Radhika Nair, and Rajkumar Ponnusamy -- Dashboards have been hailed by the ASU Community as practical and illuminating.


Arizona Indicators is a community-based dashboard that answers questions about the current state of Arizona and the direction the community is heading. It includes such dashboards as Arizona's population by county; AIMS scores; and renewable energy, among others.


The Dashboards Project has also lent ASU's students a terrific opportunity to garner real-world experience while creating a world-class product and gives undergraduate students the chance to work alongside graduate students.

"Every day is a learning experience that lets me explore different skill sets and learn how an office works," said Radhika Nair, a graduate student in computer science.

Work in The Cave has proven fruitful following graduation for a few former Cave Dwellers as well.

"It's been great seeing some of our students take the hands-on experience they've gained in The Cave into the job market," said John Rome, Associate Vice President for UTO Enterprise Data Services. “Several students were offered jobs or internships from companies like Toyota and salesforce.com after showcasing the dashboards they'd developed."

To recognize the efforts of ASU's Cave Dwellers, Rome dressed up The Cave by outfitting it with a fresh coat of paint; artwork; a comfy bean bag chair; and a large, flat panel screen.

"It used to be a kitchen," said Venkatesh Mandalapa, a graduate student in computer science.  "Now I often come here just to study. It's a pretty friendly place."

Pre-computer science undergraduate AJ Fairfield agrees.  "It's very personal to all of us. It's like our second home."



Students hanging out in The Cave.


The Future of Dashboards

Dashboards are quickly becoming an essential Business Intelligence tool.

"I think ASU Dashboards will greatly help various aspects of the University from operational support to student admissions," said Senh Luu, Enterprise Data Services Systems Programmer.  "They provide transparency to the inner workings of the University, and I foresee greater involvement in creating actionable dashboards as a way for the entire University to gain meaningful metrics, set goals, and measure organizational success."

For more information on ASU Dashboards, visit http://dashboard.asu.edu.