Computer Science Grads Reach Finals in National Design Competition

OGDEN, Utah – A group of Weber State University computer science graduates who designed software for a local restaurant that employees adults with special needs has placed in the finals of a national design competition.

Six of the nine team members will travel to Washington, D.C., June 16-19, to compete at the Institute for Empowerment, which focuses on helping individuals with developmental disabilities.

The students created a system to help employees fill orders more smoothly at Runway Ruby’s, located at Hill Air Force Base.

“Walking into the restaurant, you wouldn’t know that the employees have any disabilities,” said Richard Fry, WSU associate professor of computer science and team advisor. “But when the employees get flustered or things go totally wrong, you really see the stress and the problems.”
The WSU student team developed a Web-based queuing system that enables lunch rushes to flow more efficiently, increases customer satisfaction and lowers employee stress levels.

“The added requirement to develop a product that benefited special needs individuals helped to focus and motivate the team,” said team member Frank Eddy. “It forced us to look beyond the ones and zeroes required to write software code. We had to research and come to understand how those with special needs benefit from highly structured and atypical workflows.”

The Engineered Queuing User Interface & Point-Of-Sale (EQUIP) system was appealing because of its straightforward and structured simplicity that increased productivity and halted the problems of a previous system.

“We feel like our software has potential beyond Runway Ruby’s,” Fry said, noting that the customizable options for the system are endless. “For example, even though our initial release of the software does not accommodate blind people, we could modify our system to be able to work with them by providing audio or tactile responses when they touch the screen of the digital device.”

Fry entered the team’s project after hearing about the competition from the Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center (PARC), the community partner for the project. A representative from PARC as well as an employee at Runway Ruby’s will also travel to D.C. This is the first year that a software design has made it into the competition finals.

“We were honored to be selected as one of the finalists because it is software, so it is harder to showcase than the hardware devices our competition developed,” Fry said. “There were hundreds of submissions, and we were one of the top three.”

Fry and the team will attend a congressional reception on Capitol Hill and meet with representatives from the Utah Legislature. Fry said even if WSU places third, the university, the students and PARC will still receive a cash prize of several thousand dollars.

Every year, seniors in WSU’s computer science engineering program create software that helps the community, and the Runway Ruby’s project was just one of many designed this year.

“Working with clients with special needs really opened our eyes and helped us find creative solutions to extra challenges,” Fry said.

All of the team members have graduated and are employed. Eight of the team members received their jobs thanks to the work they’ve done for the project. Fry said it’s rewarding to hear students talk about their experience working on the project from beginning to end. 

“We really love to give students hands-on, real-world experience, and when they can get recognized for that, it’s just amazing.”

The team produced a video that describes the project and can be found at The nine graduates involved with the software are:

1.       Jake Stokes – Eden, Utah
2.       Frank Eddy – North Ogden, Utah
3.       Michael Henriquez – Layton, Utah
4.       Anthony Guertin – Bountiful, Utah
5.       Matthew Hewlett – South Ogden, Utah
6.       Matthew Roberts – Roy, Utah
7.       Carlos Moreno – Layton, Utah
8.       Kevin Glines – Ogden, Utah
9.       Cameron Dart – Ogden, Utah

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Richard Fry, computer science associate professor
Raychel Johnson, Marketing & Communications
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