Polish Contributions to Computing

This site has been developed for the IEEE Computer Society's Computing History Competition CHC60. We chose a topic on the history of Polish Contributions to Computing, and developed a site that conveys the depth of the information that we have researched and gathered. Our team has gained a lot of experience from developing this site for the competition:
  • first, we have learned how to properly research historical information, access the right sources, evaluate them critically, and obtain the original material;
  • secondly, by researching the historical information, we have learned about several computing theories and hardware advancements, thus becoming better informed professionally;
  • finally, this competition gave us the opportunity to improve our qualifications in two ways: (a) by applying new technologies that we haven't used before, and (b) by working as a team on the development of a real website product.
We decided to create a website using the latest technologies, so we could maximally benefit from learning. When the project was first started, Microsoft launched ASP.NET 2.0 and MSQL 2005. So, having some previous experience in .Net 1.1, we decided to use this new technology and the competition as a learning vehicle to advance our skills. This site has been fully developed using Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and Macromedia Flash. The site has been tested to verify that each of the pages follow all W3C standards and is error free. All external links have been verified to not contain any malware and be current. We have also developed a backend management system for the content of this site. This gives us the ability to change and modify content from anywhere. It also allows the site to be maintained by new students, who will work on this project in the future.

The team consisted of three students and a mentor professor. We met once every week as a team to discuss progress on the assigned tasks. The team leader's responsibility was to assign individual tasks and make sure that they were accomplished in an orderly fashion. The mentor assisted the team by meeting us once a week during school and after school session was over, to keep the team organized. He helped make sure that we were focused and heading in the right direction to completing the project on time. The mentor also got us associated with other contacts to help get information accessed and translated and get the correct copyright permissions for posted resources.

Each of the three team members had a different focus. The team leader’s focus was the actual website development: access to technologies, website design and implementation, testing according to requirements of the competition and meeting the W3C standards, and organization of the team’s work. The second team member focused on developing the simulators: what features should be implemented, how to best illustrate the concepts, and how to do efficient implementation. The third team member focused on retrieving the historical data: searching databases for information on Polish contributions, contacting the university library to obtain respective articles, and approaching publishers to grant permission to publish material on the website. Thus, each member took one aspect of the site to build, although we all interacted in accomplishing individual tasks. During the meetings, each member would present the research findings and development accomplishments that we had assigned from the past week. To make sure we would stay on task, we developed documents for the competition requirements, design decisions, and testing procedures. In the final stages, as a team, we focused on integration, so that each team member's section would fit well with the site.

The primary criteria, which have driven our work were historical accuracy and completeness: we verified historical data with the mentor and computing experts, to make sure that all the available information is presented truly and correctly. One of the other key criteria in website development was usability and simplicity: we wanted to make sure that users would have an easy time accessing the information. Another important criterion was attractiveness: we developed different simulators to help convey the information in a graphical manner, and included the timeline to graphically show major events in the computing history and offer the user background information on these events. Finally, the website has been designed to allow extensibility: the possibility of adding new information we may have missed or overlooked is an important factor in maintaining and expanding the website.

We have acquired a great deal of technical skills by participating in this competition, but one of the most valuable lessons that we learned was the need for teamwork and good communication.
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