HCPS interns develop software prototype

Two Henrico County students have spent their summer internships creating a working prototype of an online application system for students applying to the county’s high school specialty centers.

The interns and management of eTelic Inc., the information technology firm that hosted the interns this summer, estimate that an automated system could save students, teachers and administrators as many as 20,000 total hours per year currently spent using the paper-based application process. Printing and paper costs for all also would be substantially reduced.

Jack Palen, a recent Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School graduate headed to the University of Michigan, and Shravan Ravishankar, a rising senior at Deep Run High School, developed the online software application during their four-week internship using eTelic’s proprietary rapid software application generator called Turanto.

According to Lynne Norris, department chairperson of Deep Run’s Center for Information Technology, the real-world experience provided to Palen and Ravishankar in this endeavor will prove invaluable as they transition to college and a job after academics.

“This type of experience allows a student to see beyond school and experience what a business goes through in working to solve a real problem for itself or for a customer,” Norris said. “Not many students have an opportunity to do that prior to entering the job market, which everyone knows is getting more competitive each year.”

The two students are planning to schedule a presentation to HCPS officials in order to demonstrate the prototype, hoping it will assist county management in determining the scope and value of automating the current system in the future. An online system could replace the paper-based system used by 3,700 students per year as well as hundreds of teachers and administrators who submit transcripts and recommendations for eighth-grade applicants to the county’s high school specialty centers.

“Normally this type of software program would take an experienced programmer working full time up to six months to create,” said eTelic president Mukul Paithane. “It is remarkable that these two bright students built this complex, data-driven software application in only four weeks, and with minimal programming. Jack and Shravan were able to use their limited time focusing on analyzing a real-world ‘business problem’ and developing a practical solution to replace a paper-based application process, saving time and money for everyone involved.”

Further development of the prototype would allow Henrico County eighth-grade students, teachers and administrators to complete, submit and review various documents online, including the application itself, along with other documents such as transcripts and teacher recommendations. They would be provided with secure access to the system in order to process information needed from them. Specialty Center school admissions officials would then use the system to access all information used to make decisions on which students should be admitted into various magnet schools.

“From my experience in using the current paper system, I know that an automated process would save other students tremendous amounts of time when applying, and the cost-savings for the county should be significant as well,” said County Intern Coordinator Robert Stephens.
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