Computer Science Students Building Humanitarian Software

Story posted January 23, 2008

Bowdoin is the newest site of The Humanitarian FOSS Project, 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.

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Prof. Allen Tucker

Allen Tucker, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Natural Sciences Emeritus, has organized a group of four students to create volunteer management software to suit the needs of the Ronald McDonald House in Portland, Maine.

Nolan McNair '08, Max Palmer '08, Oliver Radwan '08 and Taylor Talmage '08 are putting their computer science studies to use toward a semester-end goal of creating and building useful software that will replace the countless handwritten volunteer calendars and paperwork to manage, track and schedule the nearly 300 volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House.

Tucker says the project is valuable in several ways. "The students receive a superb service learning experience, Bowdoin and the Ronald McDonald House have a new working relationship that furthers Bowdoin's commitment to serving the common good, and the House will receive a valuable piece of software that can very much simplify their day-to-day operations.

"I'm very excited to be part of this project," Tucker says. "All we need to do now is to get the job done!"

This project 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.

The goal of the HFOSS project is to build a community of academic computing departments, IT corporations, and local and global humanitarian and community organizations dedicated to building and using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) to benefit humanity. This project is part of the growing Humanitarian FOSS Community, a community that was inspired by the Sahana FOSS Disaster Management System, an IT system that was built to aid in the recovery effort following the December 2004 Asian Tsunami. During the past two years, with the help of IT professionals in Sri Lanka and at Accenture Corporation, students have built a Volunteer Management module that is now part of the Sahana system.

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