Four undergraduates at The University of Texas at Tyler have developed a Web application to be used by UT Tyler student military veterans and the Veterans Resource Center, Chris Cox, center coordinator, announced.

As part of their Fall 2014 Computer Science Capstone Project, the graduating seniors created "Operation: Patriot Benefit." The Web application will help simplify the veteran benefits process not only for the center, but also for UT Tyler student veterans and their dependents.

With the online resource, registered users will be able to keep track of the necessary documents after completing a survey tailored to their needs, while center officials will be able to follow each user's progress and for which benefits and scholarships the student or dependent qualifies. This in turn, will eventually eliminate unnecessary meetings, missed deadlines and any confusion.

"With this project, we wanted to create a personalized user experience to streamline the process and make it better," said Peter Galbraith, of Tyler, project team member. "Through this project, we got the opportunity to participate in a developer-to-customer relationship as we built a real-world product."

Other student members included Weston Kingsley, of Bryan, Daniel Sorrells, of Amarillo and Jacob Perkins, of Riverside, Calif.

While the online software is still in the developmental phase, officials hope it will be fully operational by March 2015.

"It was amazing to see the passion that our UT Tyler students had throughout the project," Cox said. "They all understood the importance of the project and wanted to make sure they could do their part to lessen the issues veterans face."

Just prior to graduation, UT Tyler computer science and computer information systems majors undertake significant projects in a capstone course designed to measure the strengths of their learning.

In the course, taught by UT Tyler associate professor of computer science Dr. Nary Subramanian, students are challenged to create real-world solutions.

"Students in the Capstone Project course perform service learning where they learn by reflection, while performing service to the community both outside and within UT Tyler," said Subramanian, who has served as the Capstone Project course lead instructor for the past 10 years. "This service learning approach has helped students get jobs, often before graduating, besides significantly improving the image of our programs in the community."

After graduation, the team will continue assisting university officials throughout the development phase and into its launch. Plans are to add enhanced features within "Operation: Patriot Benefit" before integrating it into UT Tyler's web server.

"With additional planned features, such as a calendar, email notifications and the potential for Android and iPhone mobile apps, it will be easier than ever for veterans and dependents to stay informed about their benefits and stay connected with the Veterans Resource Center," Galbraith added. "This will be a great tool for our veterans. They have done so much for our country. My team and I are very happy to have found a way to help them afford the education that they deserve."

For more information, contact Cox, 903-565-5972 or chriscox@uttyler.edu or Subramanian, 903-566-7309 or nsubramanian@uttyler.edu.

The mission of the UT Tyler Veterans Resource Center is to provide a pipeline of information, including resources, support and advocacy for student veterans and dependents to utilize in order to create successful leaders on campus as well as in the community and Smith County.

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