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DEVELOPMENT OF ALEXA SKILLS AS FINAL PROJECT IN ENGINEERING DEGREES

M.A. Vicente , C. Fernández 

Miguel Hernandez University (SPAIN)
Voice assistants (Alexa, Siri, Google, Cortana) start to be widely used, and their functionalities keep growing. Knowing how to develop apps for voice assistants is a competence that can be very demanded in the near future.

The techniques required are different to those used when developing for traditional devices (computers and smartphones). The way the users interact with a voice assistant is very different to the use of keyboard-mouse combinations or touch screens. On the developers’ side, programming voice assistants requires specific techniques which most developers lack.

Subjects related to voice assistant app development are not included in Engineering degrees’ syllabus. We are offering the students a way to acquire such competence by carrying out their final projects in this field. Particularly, we focus on developing apps (or skills) for the Alexa assistant, as it is the most widespread.

An engineering final project usually deals with deepening on subjects taught in the degree. We propose to use the final project to acquire new capabilities which could be useful for the future professional career of the student.

Briefly, we proceed this way: first, a short course is given to all students interested, so that they learn the basics, where to find information, etc. Afterwards, during the development of the projects, the tutors give short lectures on specific topics. Meanwhile, all students are guided in the development of their projects.

The students choose which skill they want to develop. It could be a question and answer game related to one of their degree’s subjects, a productivity application, etc.

The tool used to develop the skill is also a student’s decision. An introduction to block-based and code-based tools is given to all students. Depending on the programming level of each student, the tutors suggest the most adequate tools.

So far, the students are showing interest in this new proposal for final projects.