Congratulations Nic And Joel

Congratulations to Nic Durish and Joel Gascho, who have each been awarded a PSEER Travel Fund to attend and present at the upcoming People, Place, and Public Engagement Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador.

Nic will be presenting several talks at the conference, including How Bridging the Digital Divide can Improve Community-Based Monitoring Programs in the Circumpolar North and How Community Engaged Computer Science Can Change the World. 

Joel will be presenting Building Independence Using Community-Engaged Software Design, a case study focused on the development of a mobile application for Community Living Cambridge.

The abstracts for the talks are provided below.

Congrats Nic & Joel.

How Bridging the Digital Divide can Improve Community-Based Monitoring Programs in the Circumpolar North

Community-based monitoring has been shown to be an important tool for identifying and managing health and environmental impacts of climate change. This is particularly true in the Circumpolar North where traditional land-based activities have been affected by drastic changes in weather patterns. These tools, however, are limited by non-existent cellular and poor internet infrastructure. This presentation begins by quantifying connectivity across the Circumpolar North through a multi-community research project, and concludes with a review of Mobile Mesh Networks. These networks have the potential to bridge the digital divide and improve community-based monitoring programs across the Circumpolar North.

How Community Engaged Computer Science Can Change the World

Computer science training at the undergraduate level often limits student experiences to those that have been highly curated, constrained, and tested by the instructor. While this provides students with the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of computer science and software design in a safe environment, it does not provide a real-world experiential learning opportunity. To provide students with these types of opportunities, a third-year mandatory computer science classroom was restructured to incorporate community-engaged learning (CEL); an instructional method heavily used in the social sciences, but rarely – if ever – employed in computer science classes. In particular, students are challenged to address a broad social issue through the lens of a local not-for-profit organization. Since 2012, computer science students at the University of Guelph have worked with community partners including the Guelph-Wellington Food Round Table, the Food Access Working Group, the Upper Grand District School Board, Transition Guelph, the Guelph Community Health Centre, Meal Exchange, the Seed Community Food Hub, the Agricultural Research & Extension Trust of Malawi, and Community Living Cambridge. Students have developed prototypes to 1) improve communication between donors and food banks to help improve the quality and quantity of donations, 2) share scientific knowledge to improve crop production, 3) organize food collection drives, and 4) encourage positive health outcomes for young adults living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

The goal of this presentation is to describe the challenges and opportunities that CEL provides, including a discussion of the various players involved, a description of the timeline and tasks associated with the development of a CEL classroom, the necessity of managing expectations, and the outcomes to date (both from the student and community points of view). The discussion will end with several outstanding questions associated with a CEL computer science classroom.

Building Independence Using Community-Engaged Software Design

In the past, many people with intellectual disabilities were thought of as burdens on society, incapable of living independently. Today, Community Living Cambridge (CLC) is one of many non-profit organizations that seek to care for these individuals, recognizing them as the valuable members of the community they are, and supporting their quest for independence.

Difficulty adhering to medication schedules, a common issue among those with intellectual disabilities, can be a barrier to independence; CLC sought a solution. In doing so, they found many mobile applications that remind users to take medication, however, none were designed to be engaging, which would encourage the people they support to use it daily.

This presentation will show how we, undergraduates at the University of Guelph, are working with CLC to solve this problem by developing an engaging medication reminder app. We will discuss how the collaboration started, how it shaped the development of our design, and the benefits of such a collaboration.

In addition to talking about the collaboration process, we will share details of our app’s design. This will highlight its focus on cooperation and community building, while protecting the privacy of its vulnerable users. We will also describe how the app could contribute to research.

We want to demonstrate to attendees what is possible when computer science students and the community work together. Our app has the potential to not only benefit our local community, but perhaps, one day, communities around the world.

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