The prerequisite skills for successfully competing in the AITP NCC Java Competition Event mirror those required by industry. First, a background in basic analysis and design including a working knowledge of Unified Modeling Language (UML) notation is assumed. Second, a basic understanding of relational databases with a working knowledge of basic Search Query Language (SQL) is assumed. Third, a working knowledge of Java including the use of JDBC is assumed. In a real-world environment, these essential skill sets are vital.
Integrated Productivity Suites
An effective Computer Science or Information Systems curriculum needs to take a building block approach. A good starting place for establishing a solid foundation in essential skill sets is learning how to use a word processor, a spreadsheet, presentation software, and a database. Most companies and schools use integrated software products such as Microsoft Office or Sun Microsystems Star Office. A practical working knowledge of an integrated application suite is essential for working in industry.
Analysis and Design using UML
The Unified Modeling Language (UML) is a de facto standard in industry. Understanding and being able to interpret UML notation has become a critical skill. Common commercial products that support UML notation and modeling include Rational Rose and Microsoft Viso. There are also freeware UML tools including Softeam's Objecteering and Tigris ArgoUML that can be downloaded from the Internet.
Recommended Course Curriculum
Before learning Java, students should first take an introductory course in Computer Science or Information Systems that explains the history, common languages, and software development approaches used by industry. Basic concepts such as iterations, logical operations, and data storage should also be addressed. The introductory course should also introduce hands-on exercises with an integrated application suite including the use of a database with SQL.
The second class taken should introduce fundamental analysis and design concepts. This course should be augmented by both an introduction to UML and Object-Oriented concepts and relational database design using basic SQL queries.
The third class taken should deal with data storage and retrieval. Both relational and object-oriented database concepts should be covered. The course should emphasize building databases and running queries against the database.
Java programming courses are not recommended until the prerequisite courses are taken. We also strongly recommend that the first programming course include work with databases. Industry is looking for people that have a solid fundamental background in both theory and basic skills. Students are capable of learning Java and databases at the same time provided that they have the required background. A programming language taught in the absence of data storage, retrieval, and manipulation is not sufficient - after all, this is a major part of what computers and information technology are all about.
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