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The Challenge: To Find a Project for Problem-based Learning
"I was looking for a project that would be feasible at a technical level, but also challenging and not frustrating" for sophomores in IST 240, Introduction to Computer Languages, said Dr. Stan Aungst, Assistant Professor of IST and Faculty Research Fellow for the Advanced Information Technology Group. "Penn State prides itself on staying at the forefront of technology…."

The Solution: Virtual Coconuts

Coconuts TeamStan Aungst met with Paul Zikopoulos and other IBM researchers at the company's research center in Toronto to get ideas for a project to challenge his students. With an upcoming campus luau in mind, Aungst and Jonathan Korteweg, a junior IST major, came up with the idea for Virtual Coconuts, an on-line store accessible over mobile computing devices selling Hawaiian shirts and papier mache coconuts. Students worked with cutting edge technology, in a team environment, to produce a real-world product. The result was an instructor-directed, student-developed customer relationship management system utilizing state-of-the-art mobile and wireless computing.

The Virtual Coconuts model has been refined to provide a similar, but shorter, learning environment for Pennsylvania high school students attending the week-long summer Governor's School for Information Technology.

The PGSIT website can be viewed at:
The Virtual Coconuts website can be viewed at

Palm PilotIn a continuation of the research, Aungst currently is working with Steve Kellogg, Director of the Advanced Information Technology Group in Computer and Information Systems, and Kevin Morooney, Senior Director, at Penn State's Center for Academic Computing, on using cryptography in the development of secure mobile and wireless systems for e-commerce.

More information on the project can be found on IBM's website at:

Stan Aungst
Dr. Stan Aungst,
Assistant Professor of IST and Faculty Research Fellow for the Advanced Information Technology Group.
 "It's a synergistic relationship with Penn State, IBM..."

Mark Campbell
Mark Campbell
Undergraduate Student,
 "The Virtual Coconuts program has also stemmed into the Governor's School."

Jonatan Korteweg

Jonathan Korteweg
Undergraduate Student,
  "The most rewarding aspect of the Virtual Coconut program is..."

   Dr. Stan Aungst
   Esteban Banda
   Mark Campbell
   Mike Ervin
   Karen Fleagle
   Steve Garrett
   Jonathan Korteweg
   Howard Miller
   Jamey Patla
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