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Graduate Students Develop Innovative Food Ordering Web App

Test version expected to be ready by April

From left are Professor Tolga Kaya with graduate students Jayasree Merugu, Mayank Patel, Raja Sekhar Bagam, Aswin Babu Chelladurai and Jignesh Togadiya.

Sacred Heart University students soon will be able to order classic and modern Italian food for delivery to their residence hall with the click of a web app.

Biagio Barone, chef, entrepreneur and owner of Biagio’s Osteria in Stratford, and his wife, Gina Rizzuto, a corporate attorney, approached Sacred Heart’s School of Computing (SOC) about developing an online ordering and delivery system geared toward college students. Barone previously worked on a project with Karthikeya Bollu, adjunct professor and a 2017 SOC graduate, who now is the project liaison with SOC Director Domenick Pinto.

Faculty from the SOC selected a team of five computer science graduate students to develop the food delivery app as the final project for their master’s degrees. The team met in December to identify challenges and come up with a roadmap. Work soon got underway, with Tolga Kaya, associate professor and program director of computer engineering, as project manager.

“This is not your typical online food delivery. There will be some really cool features that have never been done before.” said Kaya, who could not elaborate due to confidentiality requirements. “The students have a chance to develop a truly useful project. Rather than me pushing them, they are pushing me to get it done. The energy in the room is unbelievable. I’m so proud of each of them. For us, the opportunity is priceless.”

Barone attends the team’s weekly meetings. “We’re enjoying the great food he brings,” Kaya said.

Team member Aswin Babu Chelladurai said, “As an international student, getting an opportunity to develop a real-life project here in the U.S. is beyond a dream. I gathered my team, who have the strong technical background, explained the project and brought them on-board.”

Chelladurai said the challenges include time constraints, technical development of a new idea and balancing the project work along with other courses and graduate assistant work. “But we all are working really, really hard, and Professor Tolga is always supportive and encourages us. I hope all our sleepless nights will be worthy someday.”

“It is exciting and fun to be working on this real-life project,” said Jignesh Togadiya, the team leader. “But at the same time, it is very challenging and demanding, since we have to complete the project in a very tight schedule, as well as learn new tools and technologies to implement the ideas into real-world solutions.”

The app has far-reaching potential, Kaya said. He’s talking with representatives of some restaurant chains who have shown an interest in it. The goal is to deploy a test version of the app in March or April.

Engineering solutions for real-life problems is nothing new for Kaya, who has a doctorate degree in electronic engineering from Istanbul Technical University in Turkey and a master’s degree in education technology from Central Michigan University.

Prior to joining the SHU faculty last September, Kaya was an associate professor at Central Michigan University’s School of Engineering and Technology. He spent almost a decade developing products for the automotive industry with students, many of whom later found jobs in the industry, he said. All his courses have hands-on components and activities to help link theory with practice.

“I am very pleased that Sacred Heart University, through the School of Computing, is able to collaborate with Biagio’s on an application that will benefit students in many ways,” Pinto said. “I am proud of the efforts of the students involved and am especially grateful for the efforts put forth by Professor Tolga Kaya, Adjunct Professor Karthikeya Bollu and team leader Jignesh Togadiya.”