Edward Pang

Edward Pang

Students dive into high-tech to solve problems

Camosun College’s Capstone event highlights energy-saving app

Edward Pang and Chris Rail haven’t even graduated from Camosun College yet, but the pair has already created a smartphone application that may help business owners save money.

A working prototype of the Building Occupant Comfort app is their final project as part of the school’s two-year computer systems technology program.

The Android app allows users to remotely monitor and control indoor environment settings like lights, room temperature and building occupancy.

“There’s a lot of features implemented in our app. From your phone you can look at the occupancy: ‘Oh, no one’s in that room? I better turn the lights off or turn the temperature down,’” Rail said.

The students were paired with Reliable Controls, a Victoria-based company that develops technologically advanced building controls like HVAC systems for large office and commercial buildings.

While Reliable Controls already has software that allows users to monitor their systems from a desktop computer, they used Pang and Rail’s newly acquired expertise to put those abilities in the palm of your hand.

“It’s quite a complex application. There’s a lot of background activities that occur to ensure that the app is constantly updated live, on the fly, so you’re essentially getting real-time reports on the status of your indoor environment,” Rail said. “So programming this was quite challenging, however we’re really happy that we were able to develop a product that hides all the tricky stuff from the user.”

Saryta Schaerer, chair of Camosun’s computer science department, says she’s always impressed by the final projects the students create.

For three decades, Camosun grads have put these projects – where they’re paired with industry clients – on display at the annual Capstone Symposium, held this week at the Pacific Forestry Centre in Saanich.

“We pride ourselves in our students having a breadth of knowledge coming out of our program, so they can go into a specialty or into something they enjoy,” Schaerer said.

“Industry likes the fact that we create these generalists, that they have these multiple areas. They’re not just web programmers, they’re not just Java developers – they can go almost anywhere with minimal training and plough forward because they’ve already had an introduction to it.”

The Capstone projects this year also included tech-savvy creations like a remote automated weather station and an aerial drone navigated by GPS.

“I wouldn’t know where to start had I not taken the program. All the coding experience aside, just learning the project management skills and the problem-solving skills were huge,” said student Nick Dronsfield, who, along with Shannon Graham and Kameron Chow, created a website called Up in Saanich, where residents can discuss and create Wikipedia-style pages on local topics of interest.

While the students say the program was intensive and challenging, they say it was invaluable in getting the necessary skills and experience to work in the industry.

“It’s definitely prepared me for a career in the technology field on different levels – like being able to do presentations and speak with clients and gather requirements and solve any problems, if necessary, and also the technical coder skills to be able to deliver solutions for clients,” Rail said.

For more information on Camosun’s computer science programs, visit cs.camosun.bc.ca.