Students get a taste of industry with computing cheese challenge

Tech-savvy students were given a taste of the real world after rising to the challenge of implementing an e-commerce set up for an independent food business.

Northampton-based Barclaycard challenged 24 Computing students to bring a fictional specialist cheese company up to date, by developing a bespoke e-commerce system for the business.

Students needed to design a fully costed system that included an administration system for employees, a website for customers and embed real payments technology using Barclaycard’s SmartPay system.

The students, who were split into three working groups, had just two days to devise their strategy before presenting it, and their prototype software, to a judging panel of two senior Barclaycard managers and a representative from the University. This was the second time, in the annual challenge’s seven-year history, that presentations were made online, due to the pandemic.

The winning team – comprising second years Louise Anderson and Brandon Kambasha, plus third years Mark Smith, Petar Stepanic, Rudo Musarurwa and Cosmin Iordache – caught the judges’ eyes by going the extra mile and adding extra features to their system, including client recommendations and stock control level management.

Louise said: “I was hesitant at first as I wasn’t too confident about having the required skills to be successful. But, the Barclaycard team and our mentors were great, I feel like I learnt a lot from them.

“It was difficult but very rewarding, and probably the highlight of university so far.”

Deputy Head of Computing, Dr Mark Johnson, said: “The collaboration with Barclaycard dramatically increases the confidence of our students, especially those without previous IT work experience, as it gives them a taste of an industry-level problem, which they invariably achieve solutions to within the specified time.”

He added: “It also gives students a chance to enhance their interpersonal skills, critically their ability to work in a team and give formal presentations, which are particularly valuable for forthcoming employment applications.

“Students also gain valuable feedback on their performance in all aspects of their skill set from senior professionals, again enhancing the student’s confidence and skills prior to applying for graduate employment.”

James Rowell, Head of Partner Solution Delivery at Barclaycard, said: “Having held the annual challenge event for the past eight years, I have been fortunate to see in real-time the latest in technical skills among the student-base of today.

“Online trends when it comes to web content creation are in many ways driven by the knowledge and skills offered in universities, and it’s extremely valuable to see how eCommerce platforms can be utilised with the latest in computing talent at the helm.

“Prior to the event, guest lectures detailing presentation skills and project management approaches were held, and you could see the learnings from these sessions shine through in the way the students tackled the challenge and presented their solutions.

“Colleagues involved in the event have been unanimously impressed with the students and blown away by their technical capabilities and presentation skills.”

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