I’m teaching our introductory software engineering course this term, for which the students will be working on a significant software development project over the term. The main aim of the course is to get the students thinking about and using good software development practices and tools, and we organise the term project as an agile development effort, with a number of small iterations during the term. The students have to figure out for themselves what to build at each iteration.
For a project, I’ve challenged the students to design new uses for the Canadian Climate Change Senarios Network. This service makes available the data on possible future climate change scenarios from the IPCC datasets, for a variety of end users. The current site allows users to run basic queries over the data set, and have the results returned either as raw data, or in a variety of visualizations. The main emphasis is on regional scenarios for Canada, so the service offers some basic downscaling, and ability to couple the scenarios with other regional data sources, such as data from weather monitoring stations in the region. However, to use the current service, you need to know quite a bit about the nature of the data: it asks you which models you’re interested in; which years you want data for (assumes you know something about 30-year averages); which scenarios you want (assumes you know something about the standard IPCC scenarios); which region you want (in latitude and longitude); and which variables you want (assumes you know something about what these variables measure). The current design reflects the needs of the primary user group for which the service was developed – (expert) researchers working on climate impacts and adaptation.
The challenge for the students on my course is to extend the service for new user groups. For example, farmers who want to know something about likely effects of climate change on growing seasons, rainfall and heat stress in their local area. High school students studying climate and weather. Politicians who want to understand what the latest science tells us about the impacts of climate change on the constituencies they represent. Activists who want to present a simple clear message to policymakers about the need for policy changes. etc.
I have around 60 students on the course, working in teams of 4. I’m hoping that the various teams will come up with a variety of ideas for how to make this dataset useful to new user groups, and I’ve challenged them to be imaginative. But more suggestions are always welcome…