|by Larry Wiss
Early in his process of designing the now first of its kind management system, Dang encountered several challenges:
Many talented people work behind the scenes at UH to bring the HITS2 (Hawaii Interactive TV System) programming to more than 36 electronic classrooms in the UH network of campuses and educational centers. System Schedulers, Presenters, Camera Operators, and Board Techs all play integral roles in the success of this innovative ITS broadcast system.
In 2000 with interest growing in educational delivery via interactive video, UH had need for a device management system that could remotely schedule, control, and manage all 157 devices in the 36 HITS2 classrooms automatically. There was no existing program or software model for a system that could meet all of ITS' needs so Systems Engineer Winston Dang was called upon to develop one.
- The management software had to be easily adaptable for use by Schedulers and Operators .
- The software had to be “transparent” (simplified) so that people with limited computer skills could operate the equipment.
- Management software of this magnitude had never been previously envisioned.
After meeting with all the HITS Engineers, System Schedulers, Camera Operators, and Board Techs available to discern their individual needs, Winston set out to develop his operations plan. As Dang so aptly described his challenges, “Going to the digital world was a whole new beast.”
For the prototype system he formulated algorithms at night while writing programming software during the day, which amounted to over 500 megabytes of code. To Dang, engineering is in essence “problem solving”, and the skills he acquired in his engineering background translated well in problem solving with computers. “Most of the work involved thinking in algorithms methodically to find solutions when there was no book to follow.”
Dang credits his years of work with his brother's business after college for his diversity of expertise needed for this programming challenge. During that time he dealt directly with clients and vendors, developed software, and performed computer maintenance. He expanded on those experiences while building ground station tracking software for satellites in his first work at UH in 1991. All of these experiences provided him with a broad view of processes to achieve success in designing the creative HITS2 system.
There are many advantages to the new HITS2 digital system compared to the previous analog system:
Dang holds several degrees from Stanford, a B.A. in Management Engineering, B.S. in Civil Engineering, and an M.S. in Structural Engineering. He's also attained an M.S. in Information and Computer Science from UH. A lifelong resident of Hawaii he is married and has two sons, one attending college at USC. He is an avid reader, investor, and Boy Scout leader.
- It is more “production oriented” (one operator) rather than “device driven” (multiple devices) as other programming software.
- The system efficiently manages multiple devices at multiple locations over a single bandwidth, making it extremely cost effective.
- There are no restraints in the number of classrooms or digital devices that can be added.
- The program is easily adaptable to future needs such as the use of High Definition TV broadcasts.
- It is user friendly, student operable.
- The system software is written in Java so it can run on multiple platforms, i.e. Windows, Macs, Suns.
- Existing structures can be used so most campuses did not have to invest in new equipment.
- Scheduling information is viewable on web page browsers.