Desktop Applications for the Pollock Testing Center

TLT/LAT is responsible for setup and maintenance of 161 examination stations in the Pollock Testing Center. The TLT/LAT/CLM Group prepares the operating system builds, and the TLT/LAT/DLEM/Labs Group maintains the operating systems. The TLT/LAT/Lab and Classroom Support Group installs and maintains the computers and monitors. Software design, development, and testing is done by the TLT/LAT/LAI/eTesting Group.

Exam Station Applications

Each exam station gets a standard CLM Lite build. Several custom software applications are installed atop the operating system to allow communication with and control from our desktop application suite. This custom software is maintained by the TLT/LAT/LAI/eTesting Group.

Exams are delivered from the Penn State LMS (currently Canvas) via a customized web browser known as the Secure Browser. Exam stations are configured to only allow logons of assigned users during a specific exam slot. Once a user logs on, he/she is only permitted to use the Secure Browser to take a specific exam. When the user logs off, the exam station is locked down again. Keeping tight control of access to exam stations is an important security measure used in the Pollock Testing Center.

Check In Program (CHIP)

The CHIP desktop application controls the check-in process.

Students enter the testing facility through one of three check-in turnstiles. They swipe their Penn State ID card through a Swipe Card Reader to open a turnstile. CHIP pulls up a picture of the student along with exam information. Staff verify the picture and choose to Accept or Reject the student. Picture verification upon check-in is another important security measure in place at the Pollock Testing Center.

Once accepted, students are assigned a station and receive a ticket. Some instructors also allow students to use scratch paper, a calculator, or other materials. Instructors do not allow scratch sheets to leave the facility, so they are coded. Students must return them as part of the check-out process.

The staff will assist students with disabilities with entering the facility.

Check Out Program (CHOMP)

The CHOMP application controls the check-out process.

Students exit through one of two check-out turnstiles by either swiping their ID card through a card reader or by inserting their scratch sheet(s) into one of the barcode scanner devices. When sufficient information has been collected (all scratch sheets or a PSU ID), CHOMP opens the turnstile and prompts students to exit.

Students with disabilities or who do not have their ID card should ask the staff to check them out of the facility.

Station Access and Monitoring Program (SAM)

The SAM application serves several purposes. It allows staff to visualize which stations are in use. SAM is capable of detecting station configuration errors and login, logout, and assignment situations. Lastly, staff can send commands to stations to fix specific station issues.

Though SAM is not required to get students into and out of the facility, it is an invaluable tool for monitoring and controlling the lab computers.

Barcode Scanner Subsystem

Barcode Scanner Subsystem Collage
In 2014 the Pollock Testing Center manager proposed that TLT/LAT/LAI/eTesting construct an automated system to gather barcoded scratch sheets from students as part of the check out process described above. A group of engineering students developed a prototype, and we put it into production in Spring 2016.

There were a number of hardware-related problems at first, but we tackled them one-by-one. By Spring 2017 there were only a couple of minor issues remaining so we decided to do a full upgrade of the prototype. Since being put into production in August 2017, the unit has been rock solid.

The Engineering Machine Shop fabricated a second unit for us with an improved design. The infeed mechanism was re-worked to grab the sheets a little better. A new belt-driven system makes the unit more robust and a little quieter.