These are tough times for colleges; fewer graduates are finding jobs upon graduation, and many students find that their skills are not up to par; that their undergraduate studies did not necessarily prepare them for the real-world workplace, and that they need to go to graduate school in order to kick-start their career.
While nobody can guarantee a job after college, the faculty at Rishon Lezion's College of Management - Academic Studies (COMAS), the biggest such college in the Middle East, make sure the students in their computer science program are prepared for the marketplace – and makes them prove it, says computer science department head Dr. Nissim Harel. “We were the first college in Israel to have a course dedicated to iPhone application development and cloud computing issues,” he says, “so we know our graduates are ready for the hottest industries out there when they graduate.”
Before they get their diplomas, the students have to show that they can “walk the walk” by coming up with a product and/or service that could be marketed and/or be sold to a manufacturer or business “as is.” Dr. Harel and his staff, along with Prof. Zeev Neumann, president of the College of Management, judge the projects – and any student that wants to get out to the real world, where jobs await, must prove that they are up to the challenge.
Last week, students in the graduating class presented their projects, some of which, if they do “go commercial,” are likely to be big hits, says Dr. Harel.
Among the projects were an early skin disease detection system; using a smartphone's camera attached to the system, a dermatologist can photograph sun-exposed body parts, and comparing the photos to previous photos already taken, the system can detect changes in the skin that may need treatment.
In another project, shoppers can scan in a previous grocery receipt and build a shopping list – and a computer or smartphone app will search online supermarket databases for the best prices, letting shoppers do some virtual comparison shopping and saving money.
There are even some fun and games among the projects, says Dr. Harel. “iPool lets users take a photograph of a pool table using their smartphone, with the balls in position. The photo gets uploaded ot the phone and is placed in the iPool app, where users can take a 'virtual cue' and practice shots, making sure they are using the right technique to make their next shot. Once they've found a winning shot on the screen, they can use the technique on the real-life pool table.” Cool!
“There are many more – apps for the iPad and iPhone, robots, medical devices, and many others,” says Dr. Harel.
One of the school's highlights is its high school/college program, says Dr. Harel. “Students enroll in 9th grade in an accelerated academic program that lasts for five years, and then receive a high school diploma and a bachelors degree, after which they enter the IDF and serve in a specialized unit,” he says.
Dr. Harel says that he feels he works at one of the best colleges in the country. “We have graduates in all walks of life, many of them key people at the most important hi-tech companies in this country,” he says. “We're quite proud of our school, and our graduates.”