Last week, at the end of the FHIR DevDays, we offered participants a podium to demo their prototypes built or tested during the hackathon part of the DevDays. While there were surprisingly many interesting entries, one in particular struck me: a demo by Simone Heckmann, which showed a message broker turning HL7 v2 messages into FHIR and posting them to a server.
Now, Simone teaches at Hochschule Heilbronn, and she told us that building this message broker is actually part of a student project at the Hochschule. That’s right: Simone uses FHIR to teach her students about interoperability and show them the caveats and real-life problems involved in building connected systems. And that’s only part of her teaching curriculum; in addition to have them map one type of messages to another standard, she also asks her students to select any of the available open-source FHIR clients and servers, play with them for about a month and extend them. And this is just the prelude to the final part of the teaching program: she then organizes a hackathon at the Hochschule where the students bring their pet projects they have been working on and test them against each other.
By the time she reached this point in her story is was almost sure I had misheard. A teaching facility where students not only learn the background on actual interchange standards and terminologies, but where current standards and software are used to get hands-on experience with them and be confronted with the reality of having your software speaking to someone else’s! Where was she when I was a student? Okay, “interchange” back then meant calling servers using CORBA and writing IDL, but still! I know quite some about current teaching methods and I frequently talk to people coming straight out of (medical) IT universities, this is the first time I have heard about a teaching program that takes practical teaching to this level.
As you can understand from my perspective as a FHIR co-designer, I love the idea of combining teaching with bringing practical skills to future interface developers and I am delighted that one of the central tenets of FHIR – focus on implementability and practical use – has found such good use in teaching about interoperability. In fact, I love the idea so much that I’d like to see how we can bring some of the student projects to the Developer Days next year.
See this as a warning to the other participants of next year’s edition of the DevDays: you will have to face the projects from these fresh minds from Heilbronn, showing what you can do with FHIR in just a single semester of teaching. Good luck!
Oh, how I would have loved to be a student at Heilbronn!
Update: I would have become a co-student with Grahame, see Grahame’s blog