In 2012 the VMware Academic Program agreed to engage in a new type of collaborative relationship with Harvey Mudd College (HMC). HMC operates the Computer Science Clinic, a year-long program that provides students with the opportunity to work on a small group project proposed by sponsors from industry. VMware decided that this would provide a great opportunity to connect with some of HMC’s CS students within the context of a meaningful project.
Harvey Mudd College’s Computer Science Clinic
Students work in groups of four or five under the guidance of a student project manager (team leader), a faculty advisor, and a liaison from the sponsoring organization. Projects begin in September, involve about 1,200 to 1,500 work hours and are completed the following May.
The sponsor’s liaison outlines the project requirements, approves the team’s proposal for accomplishing the work, and receives weekly progress reports. In most cases the student team visits the sponsoring company in the fall semester to learn about the technology or to give a design review to senior officials, then returns in May to present the final results. More details about the program are available at Harvey Mudd College.
VMware’s Project: A User Interface for vProbes
A small group of engineers from VMware created a proposal for a project that they believed would be both challenging and interesting to the HMC Clinic students, while providing real value to VMware. They chose to have the students create a simplified user interface to the standard vProbes tool. vProbes is a flexible dynamic instrumentation tool developed at VMware to help with understanding what is occurring in a virtual machine or on the virtual infrastructure on which the Virtual Machine runs.
The team of HMC undergraduates participating in the Computer Science Clinic investigated how to make vProbes accessible to non-programmers. In order to do this, it was decided to expose some of the vProbes functionality via a web-based user-interface.
The project was completed at the end of HMC’s Spring semester in mid-May. After some start up challenges, the Harvey Mudd team created a prototype user interface, culminating in a successful demonstration at the end-of-Semester Projects Day 2013 at Harvey Mudd College and a ‘Tech Talk’ given by the students to VMware engineers in Palo Alto. Some additional work is needed to complete the objectives set by the VMware team, but the effort was very rewarding for all involved. The students in the clinic had a very positive experience with their VMware engineering liaisons, as reflected by their feedback:
“The liaisons exceeded our expectations for their helpfulness, and it was clear that although this was only a side project for them, it was one that they devoted attention to.”
“VMware was about as helpful and effective as I ever could’ve asked for…the liaisons were understanding, and incredibly helpful with their suggestions. When we produced good work, they complimented it; when we produced less than we might have (for whatever reason) they took it in stride. ”
“I think we probably had the most helpful and involved liaisons that the Clinic program has ever seen.”
Geoff Kuenning, Director of the Harvey Mudd Computer Science Clinic, said “VMware’s project provided a valuable educational experience for the students at Harvey Mudd College.”We are looking forward to our next collaboration with HMC to begin in September 2014.