ISys Students Rake in Record Wins at National Competition

After a 17-hour test of endurance and IT skill, six Brigham Young University students championed a national information systems competition hosted by the Association of Information Technology Professionals in Orlando, Fla. Continuing their winning tradition, BYU left with three first-place finishes, three second-place finishes, one third-place finish and two honorable mentions — taking home more awards than ever before.

"The students represented BYU well — we had the most awards per entrant and nearly each student won at least one first place," says Craig Lindstrom, associate professor of Information Systems and adviser for the competition. "But it's a marathon. Our students competed in four contests, about four hours each, went to bed and did another one the next morning. By the end, they were exhausted."

Students competed in five divisions — systems analysis and design, business intelligence, database design, Visual Studio application development and Java. The senior ISys students included Eric Christensen from Provo; Nate Eborn from Boise, Idaho; and Tyler Seader from Bloomington, Ill. The junior ISys students included Nathan Cooper from Orem, Utah; James Kershaw from Garland, Texas; and Arthur Weagel from Albuquerque, N. M.

"The competition tests how much you already know and how much you can learn on the spot," says Weagel, who placed first in both systems analysis and design and database design, second in Java and received an honorable mention in Visual Studio application development. "One of my classmates had to learn a new feature of a programming language for Visual Studio in four hours. All of us had to do that, in some sense. You need to combine your previous knowledge with the ability to learn quickly to come up with a solution in a short period of time."

Up against more than 60 colleges and universities, with some schools entering dozens of teams per division, BYU's group seemed to be a David among Goliaths, but the students came away with almost more awards than hands to hold them. They attribute the success to their preparation in the junior core classes and their professors' emphasis on solving real-world cases under pressure.

"The information systems program is excellent preparation for competitions — it not only teaches you the material but also how to work hard and plan well," says Kershaw, who took first place in business intelligence, second in database design and received an honorable mention in Java. "In the junior core we had one week to design a system, document it and create an attack plan. That experience set my team apart in database design. We got the design done before anyone else because we had already done something similar in class."

The competition, which is part of the AITP's National Collegiate Conference, also provides many networking opportunities with industry thought-leaders and other talented students across the nation. BYU has been entering the competition since 2003, and the longevity of their success has posed a new problem for the ISys department — where to store the growing number of trophies.

The Marriott School is located at Brigham Young University, the largest privately owned, church-sponsored university in the United States. The school has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems and entrepreneurship. The school's mission is to prepare men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world. Approximately 3,000 students are enrolled in the Marriott School's graduate and undergraduate programs.

Below is a breakdown of the BYU awards:

Systems Analysis and Design
1st place: Nathan Cooper and Arthur Weagel
2nd place: Eric Christensen and Tyler Seader

Business Intelligence
1st place: Nathanael Eborn and James Kershaw

Database Design
1st place: Eric Christensen and Arthur Weagel
2nd place: Nathan Cooper and James Kershaw

Visual Studio and Application Development
3rd place: Eric Christensen and Nathan Cooper
Honorable Mention: Tyler Seader and Arthur Weagel

2nd place: Tyler Seader and Arthur Weagel
Honorable Mention: Nathan Cooper and James Kershaw

Media Contact: Joseph Ogden (801) 422-8938
Writer: Carrie Akinaka