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Going beyond the textbook allows students to apply knowledge and skills in real world experiences.

And partnerships with the likes of NASA provide powerful experiential learning opportunities to Harrisburg University students. The work Computer Information Sciences graduate students recently completed with NASA Goddard allowed them to gain hands-on, real-world experience, while broadening their skill sets.

The project, which represents the second collaboration between HU’s CISC program and NASA Goddard, involved the development of a test application for NASA’s Core Flight System cFS. 

NASA employs a reusable and customizable software to build flight systems – software that controls flying.  HU CISC students worked with staff at NASA Goddard to build a test application for cFS.  When installed, the application tests the cFS. The application allows NASA to find software defects as they make enhancements to the cFS. It also can be used to confirm that the application is installed correctly.

“Our students working with the NASA Goddard Center for Core Flight System (cFS) test application is a win-win scenario for both our students and NASA,” said Dr. Abrar Qureshi, computer science and software engineering professor. “NASA receives our motivated students with cost-saving benefits and our students gain access to a real-world, hands-on project that encourages problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making skills.”

The cFS is developed by NASA, but it is used around the world. The cFS is highly configurable and can be used on a variety of operating systems and hardware platforms, and it is not feasible to test every combination of configuration.  The application students worked on acts as a “plug-in” to the cFS and tests a handful of critical functions. It allows the user of the cFS to perform some basic testing on their configuration, and it eases the adoption of the NASA software product.

“This work gave us an insight into how large projects are made and handled, and it taught us how to efficiently test and communicate with stakeholders,” said CISC graduate student Vinee Shukla, who took part in the project. “We were able to get hands-on experience in C language, API testing, and test reporting. And we really enjoyed working with our liaison. This project gave us a broader knowledge on the proper way and approach to building a project. It also taught us the benefits of proper documentation in each phase, which made our journey easier.”


The continuing partnership between Harrisburg University and NASA Goddard is invaluable for students and the University. In addition to providing students real-world experiences for their resumes, it helps Harrisburg University understand whether the topics taught in class are deep enough and wide enough to complete actual projects outside of the University.

“These experiential learning opportunities equip our students with soft skills such as team collaboration and accelerated learning through exposure to cutting-edge technologies needed for growth in their profession,” Qureshi said. “It also provides great networking and employment opportunities for our graduates.”

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Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private nonprofit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717-901-5146 or email, Connect@HarrisburgU.edu. Follow on Twitter (@HarrisburgU) and Facebook (Facebook.com/HarrisburgU).

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