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Technology + Activism = Computing for Good
What do you get when you combine the power of computing with youthful idealism and a desire to make tangible, immediate contributions to the human condition?
You get Computing for Good—or, as it's known in the College of Computing, C4G.
The C4G initiative started in late 2007, to pair up teams of undergraduate and graduate computing students, and interested faculty, with real-world
organizations that could benefit from computational solutions to problems. Whether it's homeless shelters in Atlanta needing to track bed vacancies in real time, or the World Health Organization needing a better way to manage clean blood supplies in several African countries, Georgia Tech students have been stepped up to the challenge.
“Computing for Good is an opportunity for students and faculty to use their knowledge and talents to make a positive difference to some of the most pressing societal problems,” says Distinguished Professor Santosh Vempala, co-instructor for the first C4G class in Spring 2008 and one of its guiding lights ever since.
Since the first C4G class was co-taught by Vempala and Professors Mike Best and Ellen Zegura, over 100 students have enrolled, tackling over 30 projects. Most of those projects are deployed —across town, across the country and around the world. What's more, the class has captured the passions and imaginations not just of students, but of the growing list of faculty who have taught it. Course iterations and their instructing faculty include:
- Spring 2008 – Santosh Vempala, Mike Best & Ellen Zegura
- Fall 2009 – Vempala & Zegura
- Fall 2010 – Zegura
- Fall 2011 – Zegura & Jim Foley
- Fall 2012 – Vempala & Gregory Abowd
Below is a sampling of C4G projects that have been implemented in coronation with external partner organizations. To find out more, see the list of C4G projects with each edition of the course or check out the C4G course blog for posts by students themselves.
- C4G Basic Laboratory Information System (BLIS) with the CDC: Students conceptualize and develop an automated system to track and manage all specimens collected in CDC-overseen testing labs in 70 countries worldwide (more than 1,500 labs).
- Trends and Analysis for the United Way's Shelter-to-Home program: In collaboration with the Regional Commission On Homelessness, students develop a web-based database to track homeless clients, a major improvement over prior spreadsheet and paper-based tracking methods.
- Mental Health Liberia with The Carter Center: Students develop a suite of tools to support monitoring and evaluation of a Liberian mental health network, with an emphasis on tracking patient improvement.
- Equipment Loan System with the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association Georgia Chapter: The project goal is to create a web-based portal for ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) patients to request/reserve equipment from the ALS lending library, as well as respond to various queries and generate inventory reports.
- Bin There with Georgia Tech Recycling: This project is dedicated to finding easier ways to help people at Georgia Tech recycle more and waste less.
- LifeNeT: This projects goal is to develop a functional communications network in disaster situations and developing regions with low to zero communications infrastructure.
At the conclusion of each C4G class, students participate in a poster and demo session where they get to explain their projects to fellow students, faculty and C4G partner organizations, and more. Check out photos from the 2010 "C4G Review Day" on the College's Flickr stream.
Are you ready to compute for good? The next C4G class is waiting.
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