Mavlink Magic: ‘It’s the one tool I depended on to check my GPA’

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By Jena Schuster
CONTRIBUTOR

“It’s the one tool I depended on to check my GPA, pay my tuition and check on my grant status,” said Josh Stevenson, a 2014 UNO graduate.

Keeping MavLink running is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week job, said Michael Harris, software developer for the Administrative Application Development department at UNO.

“I’m always on call. If there is a major issue like MavLink goes down, my phone is ringing,” Harris said.

MavLink is the one student portal that allows students to check their GPA, enrollment status, grant and financial aid awards, student balances, and enroll for classes each semester.

MavLink does have scheduled maintenance windows starting at midnight on Sundays to allow any bugs that aren’t prohibiting people from enrolling to be fixed at that time.

The highest activity on MavLink is seen at the beginning of the semester, Harris said, with students paying tuition balances, and adding and dropping classes. MavLink is hit the hardest the first week of each semester, he said.

Each quarter, new enhancements are implemented into MavLink, Harris said.

COURTESY OF UNOMAHA.EDU
COURTESY OF UNOMAHA.EDU

Harris writes the code, which is tested by students and administration prior to putting the enhancements into the active MavLink system.

Harris said enjoyable part of the job is writing the code that gets put into the MavLink system.

“I can immerse myself in code and get lost for hours,” Harris said. “Sitting down and coding is soothing for me. It’s like reading.”

Harris said MavLink is housed in a system called Nebraska Student Information System, or NSIS. The framework is the same for all Nebraska state colleges and universities, he said

This allows for easy transformation of student information within the system. Harris also said that if a student decides to transfer from UNL to UNO, all the student’s login information and ID numbers would stay the same, and the only thing that will change is the look of the application itself.

Harris’s job is to develop new and easier ways for students to access and attain information within MavLink, and also to fix any internal bugs within the system.

Harris said if a student is having issues logging in to MavLink, he is the first stop to determine why.
If it is an issue within the MavLink system, he will review and fix the problem. However, if it is an issue with the server, Harris will escalate the issue to CSN, where the servers are housed.

Harris has been the primary soft-ware developer for MavLink for 2 1/2 years and has been working at UNO for seven years. He is pursuing his degree at UNO in Computer Sciences with an emphasis in Internet applications and hopes to graduate in May.

When Harris is not in meetings getting requirements for enhancements to MavLink, he is at his desk immersed in building the required enhancements and applications for the system.

One of the greatest strengths a person can have working in the MavLink system is creativity, Harris said, and one has to have a creative mind to come up with solutions to the issues within the MavLink system.

“A lot of the solutions aren’t just something you can Google search and find something someone else has done and implement it,” Harris said.

 

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