Academics and Research

First-year student shows entrepreneurial spirit

While the use of tablets and smartphones has become commonplace in the world of academia and business, first-year University of Denver student Zach Burmeister found a way to take things one step further.

For the last year, Burmeister has been developing and testing his own set of iPad applications called SmartTest Pro. The applications, one for teachers and one for students, deliver tests via tablet devices and allow for a new level of interactivity in test-taking.

A Tampa, Fla., native, Burmeister always had an interest in application design, but it wasn’t until a senior project afforded him the time to explore this interest that he was able to show off his skill. At his high school, Tampa Preparatory School, all students used iPads for various assignments and projects. Burmeister noticed, however, that the practical application of the tablets stopped at taking exams.

With web searches, screen grabs and definitions readily available at the swipe of a screen, testing on tablets and computers raises major concerns about cheating. Burmeister’s app provides a solution to the problem, while attempting to replace the traditional Scantron or bubble sheet tests. Tests delivered via the app work just like a Scantron would, with a student selecting a multiple-choice answer and submitting it to the teacher. However, SmartTest Pro offers a myriad of other features that could someday revolutionize test taking.

“My inspiration was that I wanted to make something that would make a difference, while at the same time I’ve always liked the whole design aspect of programming,” Burmeister says. “I was in an iPad environment. I saw a problem and I set out to try to fix it. It started as a small idea and snowballed into this big thing.”

The test prevents students from cheating by sending alerts to the teacher whenever the student has done something prohibited (leaving the application, opening a browser, taking a screenshot), but it also allows teachers to look at live results, view statistics, export results and chat with students during the exam. According to Burmeister it has all but eliminated the necessity for large quantities of paper in the school as well. The app currently is being tested at Tampa Preparatory Academy. If the test is successful, Burmeister will likely market it to other schools with iPad communities.

Burmeister will major in computer science at the University of Denver, but he also intends to earn an MBA. Despite his early success, app design is not what Burmeister wants to do for a living.

“It’s a different world when you have to spend a full work week sitting at a computer coding. That’s not something I’m interested in,” Burmeister says. “I enjoy doing it on the side, but I want to pursue the more business side of it, with a computer science focus.

“My goal is to be successful enough as an independent developer that I’ll be able to go to California and work with different startups and be able to hop around without having to worry about finances.”

Burmeister was attracted to the University of Denver because of its emerging computer science and engineering program.

“I see it becoming a very good program, in the same way that DU can say that they have an extremely good business program,” he says. “That’s something that when students come to visit DU they promote. They talk about the Daniels College of Business, and I’d also like them to talk about the Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science. I want to help promote that because I want to be able to say that it’s something we, us students, helped to create with the things we’ve done.”



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