Requirements Engineering Students Design Software System to Support Emergency Services
Students in Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley’s MS Software Engineering program presented their final projects last week for their software engineering requirements engineering course. The students presented before a mixed audience of fellow students, professors, and emergency/disaster management experts from the community.
In this seven-week course, students learn contemporary concepts and practices related to the acquisition, analysis, validation and communication of software requirements. This project-based, learning-by-doing course leads to students delivering validated requirements for a mobile emergency medical services information and communications network, also known as MEMS. Two senior contributors to the Disaster Management Initiative, both firefighter-paramedics, and numerous of their associates worked closely with the students so that the requirements engineering tasks were as realistic as possible.
Professor Patricia Collins teaches the course annually, each year with a somewhat different product focus. “What's always fascinating in this course is that we give the student teams identical starting points and their creativity and interests take them in different directions with the task of proposing a viable software-based product,” explained Prof. Collins.
“The students have been very fortunate to have the very active involvement of Disaster Management Initiative (DMI) affiliates Cal Blake and Sean Lanthier. Cal and Sean provided contact information for an additional dozen stakeholders in EMS. Students interviewed these "volunteers" and captured very high-quality, edited transcripts of all the 60-minute interviews. These student "deliverables" will be available to DMI at the end of this course, to be used for DMI-related research. DMI affiliates will have access to these documents in an "open source" model.
Victor Marmol, a part-time MS Software Engineering student who works at Google as a Software Engineer, found it gratifying to be working on a real-world project with real implications. Marmol explains, “I came to the class expecting class work on some pre-defined sample problems we might run into. I was very surprised to learn that we were working hand in hand with real responders and investors in this area. It isn't a toy project about a scenario that doesn't exist, but rather something that could potentially have some actual results and impact.”
Marmol’s student team worked on a project focusing on understanding the technology used today by first responders and trying to envision how these could be vastly improved. “First responders are the medical professionals who are the first to arrive at an incident, provide urgent care, and transport patients to the hospital. We believe that the technology used by responders is outdated and cumbersome and think that in using more modern technology, there is a great opportunity to improve the quality and speed of an incident response,” said Marmol.
“The vision we have come up with is one where the responders are much more connected to each other, to other types of responders (e.g., police, firefighters), and to hospitals. This lets there be an easy route for sharing of information between all parties involved, leading to a faster and more knowledgeable response. The responders will be able to get a better idea of incident location and area, seamlessly communicate amongst one another and the hospital, the medical history of a patient, current doses and medical practices, and they will be able to quickly transfer all of this data to a hospital,” added Marmol.
Another student, Linda Avendano, worked on a mobile application to help emergency medical service staff receive timely and accurate information about any emergency medical situation, so that the first responders can carry out the appropriate the medical procedures easily and quickly. Avendano, a part-time student in the Software Engineering, Development Management track, who works at Electronic Arts as a Sr. Software Developer, explained, “The idea is that the staff should spend more time helping the patient and less time asking for traffic information or filling in reports to give to the emergency department nurse. Today, additional time is spent after the incident in providing specific patient information to the billing department. In other words, we want the first responder to spend more time saving lives and less time gathering and processing information.”
“Disaster management involves a lot of situations where the first responder might need to make a quick decision. The software system should be flexible enough to accommodate any updates in protocols and to react appropriately when the first responder is on scene and needs to communicate or get specific information about the patient. Gathering and validating the requirements properly would allow the system to be build with relevant features as well as providing the users with a useful tool that help them to accomplish their job duties and to meet their goals,” added Avendano.