MU program will find solutions to community needs

Miami University is giving students the opportunity to link engineering and computer science course work with local community-based problems.

Through a new computing and service learning program, the university hopes to increase future interest in computing majors, especially among women.

“The main idea (of the program) is to counter the perception of what computer science is all about,” said Bo Brinkman, associate professor of computer science and engineering. “It really can be used in the service of others … you really go work with other people.”

The idea for the platform came from the National Science Foundation, and research done by Miami professor Amanda Diekman, who found that women’s attitudes toward engineering, technology, science and math careers show a perceived lack of working in the service of others.

“Working in the service of other people is very important to women in the United States; it’s something we’re perceived to not be providing in our majors,” Brinkman said. “I think that the central challenge is getting the word out that computing is a good thing to do if you want to help people.”

According to Brinkman, students who are a part of this program will be required to figure out specific plans for how to help assist their community. Through leadership skills, these individuals will learn how to find a local need, and then find a solution.

“You have some community need, and how do we check to make sure? Street lights, for example. How does a city find out that those light bulbs have burnt out? Now there are apps where people can adopt a street light,” Brinkman said.

While Brinkman will begin meeting with admissions during the next two weeks to begin getting the word out about his new program, feedback from current students in the major has been positive.

“What Bo has suggested will help expedite the male/female group work that shocks so many students semesters later,” said senior Stephanie Chaffin, the university’s only female fourth-year electrical engineering major. “Gaining each other’s respect early on will definitely affect the success of both engineering genders in the long run.”