Database Management Systems (BUS S307), taught by Dr. Mohammad Merhi, is a comprehensive introduction to database management systems, with an emphasis on database design methodologies, database query languages, and database implementation. Students in this community-engaged course form groups to design and create a database system for a local business. The project gives students an opportunity to apply what they are learning in a real-world setting and to reflect on their service experience. At the end of the semester, students present their solutions to the class and the company’s owner.
This semester, students designed databases for Flawless Finish LLC, a power washing company owned by Dan Eggleston, an IU alum. In their final presentations, students explained how their design would address a number of redundancies and inefficiencies in the company’s existing databases. For example, the owner currently uses five systems to record data and has to manually move data from one section of the database to another section and from one system to another system. Students designed one database system to record all the data in one repository and offered several ideas for standardizing and automating quotes and invoices for the company. It was clear that the students had done their homework on the company. In addition to watching a video provided by the owner, they examined the company’s website and interviewed the owner several times. It was clear from their presentations that the students had seriously considered both conceptual and practical issues, as well as different scenarios faced by the company. Students also had many variables to consider (and interactions between variables!) in designing their databases.
The owner of the company was clearly impressed by the students’ work. He commended one of the groups for asking him such good questions and for really listening to his answers; he reported feeling like the students really understood his database problems. When asked if he plans to implement any of the students’ designs, he did not hesitate to say “absolutely!” He thought the designs would save him time, help him to create more efficient processes, and offer better customer service (because he could spend more time with his customers and less time on creating quotes), and increase his business (because he could get quotes to customers quicker). He also reported that talking with students was incredibly helpful for him because it encouraged him to reflect on his business decisions, something he does not tend to take time to do.
Next semester these students will have the opportunity to take another course with Dr. Merhi—this one focuses on the design of the “front end” of of the system. Students will design a website and create online forms for customers to complete and link them to the database they created. If next semester is anything like this semester, this local entrepreneur will leave the class satisfied with the services he received and impressed by the ingenuity of IU South Bend students.