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Class Works on the Web

By Georgia N. Alexakis

Major corporations don't normally take an interest in class projects.

But last night, students in an introduction to Java programming class at the Harvard Extension School got the chance to show their work to representatives of Lycos, Inc. and Digital Equipment Corporation's Alta Vista.

Lycos and Alta Vista have both authored well-known World Wide Web search engines, which browsers use to find sites on the web.

Class instructor Robert A. Paige said he invited the corporate staffers because his students were using the companies' sites to get ideas for their projects.

"I thought it would be useful for the representatives to see why we were hitting their web sites so often and to see if they were interested in the type of work that my students were doing," Paige said.

The students are using Java, a programming language that operates across the web, to create new user interfaces. Browsers use the interface as a first level of access to the web and to search for new sites.

Company marketing, development and communications managers came to Harvard because they were excited to see the students' new designs.

"We were interested in coming because the students in this class are the next generation of web-site developers," said Sarah F. Garnsey, marketing communications manager at Lycos.

"We're very interested in helping these students cultivate their interests," she said.

Garnsey and the others said they were impressed with the students' work.

"I was especially interested in the project that put two search sites in one," Garnsey said. "It created a mini-application that would allow users to jump back and forth between both Lycos and Alta Vista."

That project's creator, Mitchell Balonon-Rosen, said he pulled two all-nighters to work out all the bugs in his program.

"I think it was probably chosen [for the demonstration] because I made the tabbed panel in the interface look interesting," Balonon-Rosen said. "It had a nice look because I incorporated pictures."

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