Campus News

Computer Science Students Launch Humanitarian Software

Story posted May 09, 2008

Four Bowdoin College computer science students, under the direction of Allen Tucker, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Natural Sciences Emeritus, have created volunteer management software to suit the needs of the Ronald McDonald House in Portland, Maine, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable, safe and supportive temporary home-like housing to families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals and medical facilities.

This user-friendly, data-rich software — created and built by Nolan McNair '08, Max Palmer '08, Oliver Radwan '08 and Taylor Talmage '08 — replaces the time-consuming handwritten volunteer calendars and the countless pieces of paperwork formerly used to manage, track and schedule the organization's more than 300 volunteers.

RMH reception530.jpg
(L. to r.) Allen Tucker, Taylor Talmage '08, Nolan McNair '08, Max Palmer '08 and Oliver Radwan '08 hold clocks given them by the Ronald McDonald House in appreciation of their time and effort.

Tucker and the students were the guests of honor at a May 9, 2008, reception at the Portland Ronald McDonald House, where several staffers shared their excitement over the new software.

"We'll be able to do all of our scheduling online; there are enumerable opportunities," said Community Manager Shannon Heckethorn. "It's really tremendous, and we're so appreciative."

"You've truly given us a legacy of your heart," said Executive Director Robin Chibroski. "For our community to get this kind of help is wonderful."

The project grew out of the Humanitarian Free Open Source Software Project (HFOSS), a collaborative, community-building project that was started by a group of computing faculty and open source proponents at Trinity College, Wesleyan University and Connecticut College. When Bowdoin College became the newest site, Tucker and the students realized the work they were doing could directly benefit the Ronald McDonald House.

"Thanks mainly to the four guys here," said Tucker, standing with the four seniors. "They're brilliant, they're committed. It's a privilege to do what we've been able to do."

HFOSS directors say the project has widespread potential and there is hope that the work of these Bowdoin students could be applied to the more than 160 Ronald McDonald Houses around the United States.

HFOSS is funded by the Directorate for Computing & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) of The National Science Foundation (NSF) under its Pathways to Revitalized Undergraduate Computing Education program (CPATH).

The local Ronald McDonald House project is supported by Bowdoin's Information Technology Department, Dean for Academic Affairs and Community Services Resource Center.

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