Thursday, February 10, 2011

Computer science class helps kids

By Trisha Stachowski
Cardinal Staff

A “Computer Science for Good” class at Saint Mary’s University is currently taking the initiative to give back to impoverished children through the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program.

Junior Jeff Thomas explained, “‘Computer Science for Good’ is a class that explores the effects computing can have on a multitude of issues in today's world.”

According to Thomas, the OLPC program is working to educate children in impoverished international areas by giving them laptops. SMU Chair of Computer Science, Ann Smith, said the laptops being given to the children are specially created to be energy efficient and highly durable.

The laptops will “provide a means for learning, self-expression and exploration to the nearly two billion children,” said Smith.

In addition to the OLPC program, the class is also involved in a program called Whole Kids Outreach (WKO), which was proposed by Smith. According to Thomas, WKO is a program based near Ellington, Mo., that aims to help struggling families with young children.

“The overall objective of this project is to develop a framework for a set of activities that can be used to teach children in rural, isolate regions about health and wellness,” said Smith.

In addition to sending two laptops to the Ellington, Mo., elementary school, five SMU students also traveled to the school to better understand the children’s situations, said Smith.

Thomas, one of the students who visited Missouri, stated, “It was a very eye-opening experience. We hope to introduce these laptops to this area to help combat some of the issues they are experiencing.”

Smith said that she considered this trip, and the class in general, to be an important experience to encourage the students to “develop technology solutions for social problems.”

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