Posted March 16, 2009
When Allen Tucker heard about “humanitarian free and open source software” (HFOSS) as a way to incorporate public service opportunities into the computer science curriculum, he was interested right away. In the spring of 2008, he worked with several students in an independent study project course to develop volunteer scheduling software for the Ronald McDonald House in Portland, Maine. Coached by Allen and other computer science faculty, along with support from information technology, four students developed and installed the new software, then trained Ronald McDonald House staff to use it
“Volunteers are really the core of the Ronald McDonald House,” said Gabrielle Little, RMH house manager. “If we didn’t have volunteers, obviously we couldn’t operate.” The new software saves valuable time in organizing those volunteers as it is centralized over the Internet, making it much more accessible than the handwritten, rotating schedules of the past. Allen hopes to continue this work with other non-profits on his own, and sees the tremendous payoff in software development for humanitarian organizations, using the many talents and skills of students.
Currently Allen is writing a textbook about open source software development. The Bowdoin project will be widely cited in the example material for that book.
We recently learned that the software developed for RMH has been nominated for the Ronald McDonald "Best Bets" award, a competition that recognizes a project for having the greatest impact on the operation of some Ronald McDonald House across the nation.
“My experience teaching software development courses prepared me well to undertake this project. Thanks mainly go to the four students here. They’re brilliant; they’re committed. It’s a privilege to do what we’ve been able to do.”