Through MSOE’s Software Development Lab (SDL) program, software engineering students get the unique opportunity to spend three 10-week quarters uniting the theory they’ve learned in the classroom with professional practices from the software industry. Students form small teams and use software engineering tools and techniques to work on large-scale projects requested by various companies. Frequently, their work is so successful that it receives practical and long-term use.

Johnson Controls recently collaborated with two student teams through the SDL program. The teams were tasked with improving a Building Automation System software tool, used by both Johnson Controls and the companies they contract with, that harvests key data and performs advanced diagnostic analytics for the devices scattered throughout their facilities. Students worked together to develop new features and user interface components for the tool, allowing for improved access to these devices for end users.

This project was developed internally at Johnson Controls and then passed on in 2014 to software engineering students Ben Beck, Joey Koenig, Jeff Sparks, and Scott Wendlandt. Work on the project was continued in 2015 by students Nathan Frasier, Zach Posten, and Jacob Voller with help from MSOE professor Dr. Robert Hasker. Support was also provided by Johnson Controls employees and MSOE alumni Janet Bodenbach, who originally brought the project to MSOE, Gary Gavin, and Shawn Schubert.

“I enjoyed working with the students on the project and I was impressed with how their skills grew throughout the year and how they were able to make contributions to our software product. In addition to the technical aspects of the project I felt that it was a good opportunity for the students to also understand and experience the business side of the software development process” said Gavin.

Johnson Controls is so pleased with the work all these collaborators have completed that the product is currently in a production build environment. It is being used throughout the company by engineers to quickly assess and characterize Building Automation Systems. The tool is also being distributed to facilities around the country. It has become so successful that Johnson Controls deemed the product too important to their business to let its development move at the pace set by the SDL program; they have taken it back for their in-house engineers to work on.

Students spent most of their time working on this project in the Johnson Controls Software Development Laboratory, a workspace donated by Johnson Controls located on the ground floor of MSOE’s Campus Center. As demonstrated by the successfulness of the students’ work, the lab continues to be a useful asset for MSOE and a substantial investment for Johnson Controls.