Tech4Good Showcases Semester of Service Learning
Zane Cochran, a human-computer interaction student, teaches photography in Liberia.
True to the Institute motto of “progress and service,” students across campus have been working throughout the semester on projects that benefit nonprofits and community partners. They’ll show off their work Wednesday at Tech’s inaugural Tech4Good service learning expo.
“Students do great things that can be quite invisible,” said Ellen Zegura, a professor in the School of Computer Science who taught a Computing for Good (C4G) course this semester. The expo will focus on projects students have done this semester in a number of colleges and schools and will also include participants in this semester’s C4G courses, which in the past presented at their own expo.
Andy Pruett, who’s pursuing a master’s in human-computer interaction, will be there with his team, which created Food Mapper, an open and accessible platform that lets users map food sources in places where they are scarce (sometimes called “food deserts”). Tackling the project from a service learning perspective served as a motivating factor in several ways.
“When the project hits challenging spots, knowing that you are working to serve and volunteer can be a source of pride and drive,” Pruett said. “The clients for these service learning projects can be emotionally dedicated to their work, and it’s rewarding to know simple solutions can often make a significant difference for nonprofits and service providers.”
The expo is the first event organized by the newly formed Service Learning and Community Engagement Council (SLCE), a group convened as part of the Strategic Plan Service Learning and Legacy Project, for which Zegura is a co-chair. It aims to build on current service learning activities on campus and promote social entrepreneurship and civic engagement in the Tech curriculum.
Efforts have an emphasis on undergraduate education but also affect the graduate experience, particularly in the case of cross-listed courses such as C4G that may be taken by both undergraduates and graduates. The SLCE plans to pursue a course designation for service learning course offerings. Around 10-15 courses have already been identified, and others would likely be added in the coming years.
In the meantime, the expo is intended to showcase what’s already being done and the momentum that exists for this type of learning.
“Outreach by Tech students to the surrounding communities is important for the profile of the university,” Pruett said. “Knowing that the quality of the end result matters beyond the scope of the course is a positive and compelling reminder that details matter, decisions matter, communication matters, and execution matters. This soaks through the team, makes work more enjoyable, and makes small wins very rewarding.”
In addition to the expo, the SLCE is working on a concept paper as part of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for Georgia Tech’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reaccreditation. The QEP is intended to have broad application that enhances student learning or the learning environment. Tech’s International Plan and Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program were both part of the QEP in Tech’s last reaccreditation.
Around 30 projects will be on display, with their creators, at the Tech4Good expo this Wednesday, Dec. 4, from 4–6 p.m. on the first floor of the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons.