Information systems in the news: Wildfire detection, net neutrality, and professors’ prose

What’s good to know about students and faculty who are uncovering and teaching technological and analytical prowess? Here’s what to celebrate and understand.

Students advance to Imagine Cup World Finals

MS-BA students Facundo Santiago and Murong He, and PhD student David Azcona won fourth place in the U.S. Imagine Cup Finals, Microsoft’s premier, international competition. Their project, Prometheus, also earned the Judges’ Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Award – for a total of $5,000 in prize money.

Prometheus combines artificial intelligence (AI) and concepts of deep learning with surveillance drones to create an early-stage wildfire detection system. In July, the team will pitch the project at the Imagine Cup World Finals, where they will compete to win $100,000.

Tens of thousands of students compete in the global competition every year. The goal is to encourage students to use their creativity, passion, and technology skills to break new ground, solve problems facing the world today, and potentially turn their idea into a business.

Read more about the invention that uses artificial intelligence to detect wildfires.

Hear the project leaders' story on the Innovation Happens Podcast.

Finding neutrality for the net might be a zero-sum game

Professor of Information Systems Robert St. Louis says the majority of Americans want net neutrality but he doesn't believe that will be possible after June 10. That’s what he shared with an ASU Now reporter in an interview about the complex issue. To get a clearer understanding of the online regulations, read the story here.

When information systems professors pen course textbooks

Students may be surprised to learn that some of their textbooks were written by the professors teaching the courses.

Choosing the right textbook for a class can be a tough decision for faculty. Which book will cover the ins and outs of the topic? Which book will organize the information in the best, most logical format? Who knows the most about the subject?

A few W. P. Carey information systems professors took matters into their own hands and wrote the books necessary for courses. Not only does a professor-penned book fit all the criteria the instructor requires, it is custom fit to the class.

The collection of literature that information systems professors have written include textbooks, fiction novels, and non-fiction books. Some professors require the books they’ve written as study material for their courses, and others do not.

However, professors aren’t reaping the royalties by assigning a book they’ve written. All proceeds faculty earn from the sale of their books required for the class go directly to a scholarship fund, per ASU policy. 

Writing a book for your course is a fairly common path for university professors, says Phil Simon, W. P. Carey information systems lecturer, who writes about the intersection of people, technology, data, and business.

Simon has written eight books, including “Message Not Received,” “The Age of the Platform” and, the most recent, “Analytics: The Agile Way,” which he assigns in some of his classes. He couldn’t find a book that fit the coursework of his class. Simon wanted something with real-world case studies such as Uber, Airbnb, and Google to demonstrate to students what was really happening in the business world.

The book has done reasonably well and other universities use it — a major endorsement. What’s more, his students have said that the book and his course have helped them in job interviews and beyond. The best part: The book isn’t priced like a typical textbook, some can cost upwards of $250, “Analytics: The Agile Way” costs $25.

“Good things generally happen when you write books,” Simon says.

He credits his reputation as an author and subject-matter expert for landing his faculty position at W. P. Carey. It’s beneficial to your stature and your overall brand, he says.

I’ve always looked at books as seeds. When you write one, you’re sprinkling them all over the place and they can lead to good things. 

W. P. Carey principal lecturer, Matthew McCarthy, has seen good things come from the books he’s written as well. Because of the royalties McCarthy has received from the sale of his book, he’s been able to award 15 scholarships to ROTC students attending ASU, something he’s very proud of, he says.

Many of McCarthy’s students don’t know their professor wrote their textbook, but they are usually happy about the cost of the book, he says. The textbook is a digital textbook, making it about 75 percent less than the cost of a comparable book.

“That’s saving my students about $150 each, at 4,000 students per year, after seven years, that’s savings in the millions,” he says.

Another big benefit of a digital textbook is that McCarty can update it often, which is necessary when your topic is technology. In his first paper textbook, “Black & White Business Computing,” cloud technology was a new term that not many people had heard of, but McCarthy suspected it would be significant so he included a few paragraphs about it in the book. By the time the book made it to print and was in the hands of his students, cloud computing was gigantic and McCarthy was a bit embarrassed he hadn’t given it more space.

McCarthy was inspired to write the book for his class after a colleague asked him who the most qualified person was to write the book for his course, and he said: “Well, I guess that’d be me.” It took him about a year and a half to write, receiving guidance from other authors along the way, and then the book was peer-reviewed by colleagues at other universities.

He doesn’t have that problem anymore, he can update his digital textbook at any time, and his students have access to the new versions.

My students will own that book forever, and they’ll get all the updates. 

Information systems professor Paul Steinbart has spent 21 years writing, editing, and revising his textbook, “Accounting Information Systems.” He joined the writing team during the book’s seventh edition in 1997 with co-author Marshall Romney, a recently retired professor from Brigham Young University. The team just released the 14th edition of the book and its first electronic edition.

Steinbart started using the book in his undergrad course because he was never completely satisfied with the books he had for those classes. Writing his own book solved the problem for him. "It gave me the opportunity to redesign the book the way I teach the class."

The book is a foundational text for how systems work in business and is used in undergrad accounting and computer information systems courses. It’s the most widely used textbook for courses on how transaction processing systems work, including at ASU and BYU.

Despite the book’s longevity and good reputation, inevitably one of Steinbart’s students points out a typo each year. “The risk never goes down to zero. You can never be 100 percent sure of everything,” Steinbart says, laughing.

Writing a textbook was always on Steinbart’s bucket list. He also writes based on his research for academic journals.

Senior lecturer Alan Simon has authored and co-authored several business and technology books, too, although none are specifically for one of his classes. He also writes historical fiction novels, including the series “An American Family’s Wartime Saga,” which includes “The First Christmas of the War.”

By Jenny Keeler