Food Trucks, Internet of Things and Pet Shelters: Students Look at Ways to Help Businesses in COVID-19 Era

August 5, 2020

With a global pandemic upending the way we conduct everyday business, Wentworth Institute of Technology’s Computer Information Systems students are looking into ways to help those most affected right now, particularly the small business owner.

Presenting their capstone projects for the Summer 2020 semester, students in Associate Professor Hollis Greenberg’s MGMT 5510 class tackled making food trucks more accessible to consumers, expanding an online presence for a business, building Internet of Things (IOT) security, and establishing an app that helps pets better find forever homes.

Students worked with real companies in most cases, examining a problem the company is currently facing and working toward a solution. Greenberg and other Wentworth professors Tony Lopez, Jill Kearney, Rick Trilling, Michael Mozill and Len Delosh served as mentors.

“There are a lot of small, local businesses that are struggling with the absence of in-person customers and we wanted to help,” said Vanessa Arevalo.

Arevalo, Elijah Hernandez and Derrick Dera created a new website for a nearby flower shop to build its brand, reach current customers who can’t enter the store and even attract new ones outside of the normal coverage area. The site would display inventory and integrate with a point of sale system, and also provide a blog to update customers in a more personal way.

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Kevin Tan and Jason Mei worked with a local tech company that provides vocational training in the IT field to Boston residents between 14 and 18 years old. With a staff of only five, the company needs to streamline their operations. And a lack of physical access has hampered the company’s efforts to reach the city’s youth.

Tan and Mei helped implement organizational software and are training the employees on a cloud-based program that will allow them to stay in touch with teens who need their services.

“Many children in lower income communities often go to after-school programs or attend internships during break to dive into educational experiences,” said Mei, noting the need to fill that void with online programming.   

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William Libertine rescued a stray cat several years ago before helping it find a home. His involvement with a local shelter opened his eyes to how much work goes into adopting a pet. He and his capstone partner, Omar Farhan, also came to realize how hard it is to find pets a home during a pandemic.

The duo’s project, Shelter Aid+, simplified the website of a local shelter, building a database of animals with images, and allowing visitors easier access to that information.

Because of the pandemic, shelters are not receiving the physical donations they normally would. The Wentworth students created a way for visitors to donate virtually, allowing for shelter employees to receive pet food and other items through a delivery service.

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Calling their work “device security at your fingertips,” Patrick Schofield, Alden King and Brian Beals looked at the ubiquitous nature of Internet of Things (IOT) devices including smart phones. Specifically, the IOT Mask is a device that plugs into the network and would protect your devices from cyber-attacks.

“Over 40% of IOT (Internet of Things) devices present in a network are currently unencrypted,” said Schofield.

The devices are designed to keep smart devices from contacting and being contacted outside of their normal operating conditions.

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“Want to find a taco truck around Copley at 1:00 p.m. and your friend is too lazy to walk more than a mile?” Charles Magnarelli posited. “We’ve got you.”

Magnarelli and his partners, Michael Upton, Andrew DeChristopher, Kevin Humphreys and Shawn Toubeau, are looking to provide a central platform for both food trucks and their customers by providing a seamless interactive experience across the market in real time. Called CurbCafe, their app would display an interactive map to find trucks, but also provide tools for truck owners to better promote themselves and utilize technology.

They also that the timing is right with more people than ever seeking outdoor dining options.

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James Wood and John Frasier looked inward for their project, examining ways that they could help improve the process of getting food at Beatty Hall.

“During peak hours, there can be a lot of rushing and people rubbing shoulders next to each other while waiting to get food,” said Wood.

To help avoid as much physical interaction as possible, the group created a demo site where food can be pre-ordered, allowing for an increase in business due to ease of access while also limited the amount of time people would spend in Beatty.

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Cilviano Alvir-Perez and Casey Germain are seeking to bring a sense of normalcy back to a child’s life by helping a local party-planning group. The duo worked to improve website functionality and help customers book parties faster. They also aim to help the company live track party trends.

Germain noted that they hope to “bring the magic to a child’s party.”

--Greg Abazorius

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