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By Maura Jensen

Nextrio2Nextrio, a Tucson IT company, partnered with Pima County Information Technology in November to sponsor a case competition for Eller master’s in MIS students. With 24 talented student teams competing in the Pima County Wireless Project, the competition level was high.

“It was tough, and the presentation was judged by more than 20 people who are experts in this area,” said Prathamesh Bhurke, a member of the winning team.

The students worked to create an innovative solution to the Pima County Library system’s wireless issues. Each team presented recommendations to Pima County IT for implementation of a new wireless internet system for all of the public libraries. The solution that the students came up with had to be flexible enough to work in each location, but standard enough to be easily implemented across the whole system.

Sandra White, managing librarian at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, said that it was very important that the teams take into consideration the end users of the wireless system, the library patrons. “The students seemed genuinely interested in understanding our patrons’ needs, and possessed the technical expertise needed to develop solutions,” she said.

Bhurke, with teammates Kyle Somers, Prakash Ponnuswamy, and Rhea Pereira, were all on the winning team, which decided on an innovative approach to the project. After carefully considering the library’s requirements and budget, the team decided on the Cisco Meraki approach, a cloud-based wireless system that could be implemented in all of the library locations and could be easily managed by Pima County IT.

“We were looking for something that could be easily scalable and would make the wireless management as simple as possible for Pima County IT,” Somers said. “Their job responsibilities reach far beyond managing the library’s public wireless system, so we accounted for that in our research. The simpler, the better.”

Dan Hunt, enterprise infrastructure manager at Pima County IT, said that working with the students was a rewarding experience. “Pima County has benefited greatly by partnering with the University of Arizona on this project, as we were able to use the brain power of over 100 bright, IT-centric students and leverage their research and creativity,” he said. Hunt also commented on how refreshing it was to work with such enthusiastic students, and how it was beneficial it was to have a new perspective on their project. “At times we find ourselves too close to the problem and in a rut where we don’t think outside of the box,” he said. “The students definitely weren’t staying inside the box.”

Whether they won or not, each of the teams left the competition with valuable real-world experience. The winning team said that they were able to gain insight into how a network management system works and that working for a client offered the chance to design a solution with real-world deadlines, requirements, and budget limitations.

Top image of Nextrio managing partner and Eller MBA alum Christi Street (left)and Nextrio team members Paz Terry (second from left), Chris Brunk, and Ned Shipp (third and second from right) with MS-MIS students.