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Computer people mix pizza and patterns

By Sally Jongsma

Professor Dawn Wolthuis

Professor Dawn Wolthuis

Not all students are motivated simply by a grade. The Thursday evening “Pizza and Patterns” gathering is proof. Close to ten students and three professors have been meeting once a week in the “Boolean Space” to learn something about software design patterns used in the industry today. The “Boolean Space,” incidently, is the mathematics and computer science meeting and study room.

“These patterns have become common tools for developing software today,” says Professor Dawn Wolthuis, who initiated the idea for the event. She wanted to learn more about them herself and invited colleagues and students to join her. They chose a book, ordered pizza, and got started.

The patterns that the group studied go by names such as “observer,” “decorator,” “factory” and others. They have been drawn from the experience of software developers over the past number of years and are becoming commonly used tools.

“They haven’t really worked their way into the regular curriculum yet,” says Wolthuis, but the students were attracted by the opportunity to learn some concrete tools that they would be able to use to write software. Spending informal time over pizza with others who share their interests and being able to list the skills on their resumés were bonuses.

“It offers another way to learn,” says Wolthuis, “less structured but highly interactive.” She believes it will serve all of them well as they develop new software.