Student Profile: Jeff Bagley, Computer Science
Jeff Bagley recently graduated with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. Bagley entered the University of Montana as a music major (saxophone performance / music education), but switched to computer science during his first semester. He explained, “While this sounds like a huge change for many people, I would actually argue that music and programming are quite similar – both use patterns and math to bring new ideas to life.”
Bagley traces back his interest in music, math, science, and technology to a sports injury. As a child, he was into baseball, basketball, football, swimming, and golf. However, when he was 12, he tore his ACL, MCL, LCL, Medial Meniscus, and Lateral Meniscus in a freak baseball injury. Because he was young and still growing, they couldn't operate on his knee for about three years so he had to live without a fully-functioning knee until he was midway through high school. While not playing sports, other hobbies and studies took front seat.
Bagley was born in Missoula, moved to Billings when he was 14, and then came back to Missoula to attend the University of Montana. He credits his high school counselor at Billings Central Catholic with encouraging him to look at UM. The counselor specialized in college prep and was familiar with all of the great opportunities offered by the local and state universities. He turned Bagley onto the Presidential Leadership Scholarship offered by the Davidson Honors College (DHC).
Through his four years at UM, Bagley has had some great professors, including Michael Cassens, “who is now with the media arts department, but he taught introductory Computer Science classes for a number of years and was a huge factor in getting me and my peers interested in computer science.” Bagley continued, “Professor Cassens received the David B. Friend Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Introductory Level in 2016, and for good reason.”
Bagley had multiple classes with another award recipient, Cory Palmer, who received the Helen and Winston Cox Educational Excellence Award in 2016, and he opined that Dr. Palmer was instrumental in his completion of his math minor. Bagley also said that his math classes with Dr. Palmer prepared him for job interviews. “On two separate occasions, I was interviewing for a software company and they posed a difficult question that I was only able to answer because of a specific lesson taught in class. For both questions I was able to think back to a specific day in M485 and M361 and come up with the answer. I ended up getting an offer from one of those companies.”
In addition to putting his academic studies to practical use in interviews, he has also completed hands-on work through his computer science capstone course, taught by Yolanda Reimer. Dr. Reimer said, “All computer science majors have to take the capstone course, ideally in their senior year. It’s a year-long course where teams of students work together with a real client/mentor to build a software product. This year the teams have worked on software ranging from use in the Forest Service fire lab, to educational software for middle-to-high school teachers and students, to a website built for Montana Recycling commissioned from Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The projects are quite varied and interesting!”
Bagley explained the process of being linked up with a client, “During the first week of fall semester, seven different clients pitched ideas to our class. Each person chose the project that sounded most interesting to them, and Dr. Reimer assigned the projects according to people's preferences. All seven clients ended up with a team of three to four students on their project.”
Bagley had two capstone teammates, Cordell Appel and Courtney Appel, who are fraternal twins. Fun fact: They did not request each other for this project they were both assigned to it and said it was the first time they were partnered together since elementary school. The team of three worked on an app called Inside Scoop for a client, Geoff Gilbert, who is a part-owner of an ice cream truck in town. Bagley said, “The original app idea was to be white-label, which means it would be a sort of template that could be used by many different trucks. You might have a Big Dipper app, an El Cazador app, and a Noodle Wagon app, but they all look and feel the same.”
He continued, “This was viewed as a little clunky, because an average person probably doesn't want to download 15 different apps for 15 different trucks, so a single map with all available trucks on it at once is much more efficient and likely to be used. Additionally, it might create interest in nearby trucks. Users can select certain trucks as favorites and receive push notifications from those trucks only, so they’re not bombarded by spam from trucks they don't even like.”
Bagley was the project manager and was in charge of organizing, planning, and communicating with their client and did quite a bit of programming too. Cordell's job was to be a developer and do a large portion of the coding. Courtney was the creative design director and did all the artwork and aesthetic touches as well as some coding. They programmed the app using an environment called Xamarin, which is used to create cross-platform mobile apps for iOS and Android with a single shared codebase.
“The most useful knowledge that came from the project was learning how to interact with clients as well as users,” said Bagley. “During the fall semester, we interviewed about 40 potential users – both truck owners/employees as well as everyday people who might use the app – and we got great feedback. One of the biggest challenges was taking all of their ideas, whittling the ideas down to the most important features, and then translating those abstract ideas into actual code for the project.”
Bagley feels like working on this project and being a college student in general has been challenging but rewarding. “When I was in my first year, I hoped that college would enable me to become a well-rounded individual and to be gainfully employed upon graduating. I think I succeeded at both, though I'm not certain about the former,” Bagley jokes. “I'm a big fan of all kinds of music, from jazz to hip hop. I am an amateur rapper (it started out as a joke but here we are) and in my free time have written songs covering a variety of topics from how pizza can help bridge the cultural divide in this country to a comprehensive synopsis/analysis of The Shawshank Redemption.”
Bagley takes the microphone for more than rapping about pizza and movies though. He has been involved with Academic WorldQuest, a statewide competition put on by the Montana World Affairs Council. “It is essentially an academic quiz bowl-type competition and the questions are focused on current events, geography, and politics, with an emphasis on the world as a whole. However, there is a smaller, hands-on section of the competition called the Global Team Challenge (GTC). With the help of the DHC, I designed a simulation where the students would act as independent countries that had to work together to stop a worldwide disease from spreading while also maximizing personal individual gain.”
The next year Bagley modified the event to become a nuclear simulation where one country has tested nuclear weapons and the other countries must decide how to handle the situation. He shared, “Overall, the events went really well and we ran the simulation with 200+ high school students. I did the event in both 2017 and 2018 and learned a lot about the design process for a large project (not dissimilar to designing software), the testing process, how to handle different personalities, etc.”
Bagley will be taking these experiences with him into the professional world, and his future is bright. In July he will begin working for FAST Enterprises, a software company based in Denver. They work with state governments, so he will travel to different state capitals to create software tailored to each client's specific needs.
While he looks forward to the future, he also reflects on his time at UM. “In the four years that I’ve been here, I think I have become a lot less of a judgmental person, and I value kindness much more than when I was 18. I’ve also made some great memories with my friends in my residence hall, the music department (I was a member of the marching band and pep band from 2015-2017), as well as my DHC friends.”
Above Image: Jeff Bagley and Cordell Appel discuss the benefits and features of their app, “Inside Scoop.” Courtney Appel, not pictured, was also a part of this project group for Dr. Yolanda Reimer’s capstone class for computer science majors.