Student programmer codes solution to save University resources

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — There are many ways students leave their mark in their four (or more) years at Penn State. But how many can say they implemented a solution that will save the University valuable time, money and resources?

That’s exactly the legacy Audra Stafursky, a senior studying information sciences and technology with a focus on design and development, will leave behind long after she’s left the classroom.

Since November 2016, Stafursky, also a computer lab consultant with Student Technology Services (STS), has been leading a project to program a new automated inventory system for computer lab locations across Penn State’s University Park campus.

According to Zachary Przybilla, manager of STS, Stafursky’s project originated from a growing need to revamp the outdated inventory system used for computer labs on campus.

Typically, this inventory process requires two lab supervisors — Elaine Etter and Mitchell Shuey — to manually enter data about such resources as toner, paper and ink into an Excel spreadsheet for all locations on campus, a process that can take anywhere from two to three hours to complete.

Etter said the process is “long, tedious and inefficient.”

“Twice a week, consultants rove to each lab — around 40 total — and record the amount of supplies. Then, Mitch and I take those numbers and consolidate them into an Excel spreadsheet to determine which supplies need ordered and delivered,” Etter said. “When doing this, we must keep in mind our target numbers, which have minimum values to supply the lab but also maximum values based on storage space limitations.”

After learning of Stafursky’s interest in programming, Przybilla sought her help in making this process more efficient.

“I brought Audra in and I said, ‘Here's the deal. I need a problem solver. Here's my problem,’ and I told her about the inventory process,” Przybilla said. “She looked at this flowchart that I had in front of me for a little bit, and finally she said, ‘I think I could do something with this.’ So I handed it off and asked her to report back with her ideas.”

It wasn’t long before Stafursky came up with an automated solution to streamline the inventory process.

“When Audra came back and told me what she wanted to do, it was perfect. So I asked her to start programming it,” Przybilla said. “We put her in a position where she could dedicate her time to this, and she worked on producing exactly what she set out to do. It was really cool to see her through this process, just to see how excited she was.”

Over the course of the next few months, Stafursky programmed both the front and back end of the new inventory system. The result is a product that will reduce both the time and money required to complete inventory tasks.

“They wanted a system that would automate the process, so I created a full stack project,” Stafursky said. “It's going to be a website that connects to a database, and the system automatically tells the supervisors the amount of things they have to order so they don't have to go through by hand to do it themselves.”

Although the system hasn’t yet gone live, Stafursky said it’s close to completion.

“Everything is done and I just have to put it on the servers then test it from there,” Stafursky said. “But as far as usability goes, everything works and it's ready to be launched.”

For supervisors like Etter and Shuey, bringing in Stafursky was an opportunity to streamline workflows, allow Stafursky to gain real-world experience, and save University resources.

“She’s minimizing our time spent on the tedious part of conducting inventory. Not only will it knock down time, it will also minimize costs,” Etter said. “It will give precise recommendations of lab supplies we need to order for computer labs across the campus.”

Before programming STS’s new inventory process, Stafursky completed an internship with The Vanguard Group, where she first gained exposure to MEAN stack development — the same software she later used to build her inventory solution.

But Stafursky’s initial interest in technology started earlier with a little help from her father.

“My dad is actually a computer programmer, and when I was in high school thinking about what I wanted to do in college, he kind of got me started doing programming classes online and would teach me whenever he could,” Stafursky said. “From there, I just kept taking more classes and then ended up majoring in information sciences and technology.”

And all Stafursky’s hard work in and outside of the classroom has been paying off. According to Etter, Stafursky’s work on the project exemplifies the reliability and determination she’s demonstrated throughout her time with STS.

“She’s engineering this system like a professional would. She takes our feedback, requirements and desires and figures out a way to implement them into the program,” Etter said. “Audra was employee of the month back in November so right there you know she’s friendly, proactive, a problem solver and definitely a team player, and this project represents all of those qualities well.”

As Stafursky prepares for life after graduation in December, she’ll be facing the world with not only a Penn State education, but with the valuable experience gained from working with STS.

“After I graduate, I'd like to work as a programmer and get my master’s in software engineering,” Stafursky said. “After that, I'm not really sure. There's a chance I could do some part-time or online teaching. Whatever I end up doing, I want to continue programming as much as I can.”

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Last Updated May 01, 2017