Coding for a Congressman

Mike Bowen (left) and Kang Luo (right) show off a sample page of a website they designed for U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.).

By Frank Radosevich II
May 9, 2012

When the office of U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock ’02 needed a web page built for central Illinois school children, it didn’t have to look beyond the Hilltop.

Staff with the Republican Congressman hired two Bradley computer science graduate students, Mike Bowen ’09 and Kang Luo, to design and build a website where students from kindergarten to eighth grade are encouraged to read 15 books over the summer and, with the website, record in the book’s title, author and the readers' comments about it.

The website is not yet live, as another company is working to host it on a government computer server, but the students hope to see it posted within the month.

Schock’s office began asking around in February for a proposal to design and build a website where parents and children could log and track their summer reading list. Bowen and Luo heard of the project through their department and decided to submit a bid. With in a week, they learned their proposal was accepted.

“We really let them know we were excited about the project,” said Bowen, a native of Plainfield, Ill., who served as the project manager. “These external projects are where you can get real experience.”

Luo, the project’s lead developer, said their programming and graphic skills helped them land the job. He said computer science coursework also prepared them to tackle the project.

“I am familiar with the technology, but working with an outside client was something new to me,” said Luo, who is originally from China. “We took classes at Bradley that gave us experience in handling this project.”

Bowen and Luo’s design features a recommended reading page, a photo gallery, a blog and a place where students and their parents can learn more about the program.

Both Bowen and Luo have worked on Web-based projects in the past, either in the classroom or on a freelance basis. They said the project was straightforward but had an added twist — their target users were children. Their first revision on the website had a business-like appearance that changed over time to a more bright and lively look.

“I haven’t had much experience designing anything for a children’s website,” Bowen said. “There’s a little more color and a little more vibrancy to it.”

Dr. Steven Dolins, associate professor and department chair for computer science and information systems, said the department encourages students to have these types of opportunities and experiences. He said Bowen and Luo were uniquely suited for the job.

“When Aaron Schock's office contacted me, I knew immediately that Mike and Kang would write an impressive proposal and be awarded the work,” Dr. Dolins said. “It's a testimony to Mike and Kang's work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to learn new technologies.”