Spring 2012 semester

In the spring 2012 semester, myself and Mark Sherriff ran a one-semester beta test of this course. There were two projects with 6 students per project. This was a proof-of-concept course, and led the way to the full implementation of the BS CS capstone requirement.


Micro-volunteering website

There are many tasks that nonprofits in our community need being done, and many require specialized skills. Perhaps it is installing a printer driver on a computer, or re-wiring an electrical outlet, or fixing a plumbing leak. Hiring a professional to resolve the issue can run into the hundreds of dollars. But there are many skilled volunteers in the community -- many of them professionals themselves -- that would be willing to help out with such tasks. How, then, does one connect the skilled volunteers with the nonprofits who need their expertise?

The answer is a micro-volunteering website that allows volunteers to register their skills and passions, and nonprofits to register their needs. The site will then match up the tasks that need completion by the nonprofits with the volunteers that can perform those tasks. A typical micro-volunteer task would take an hour or so; something that somebody could do on their way home from work. There are many such websites available today, but they are all either virtual tasks (i.e., fully computer-based), such as sparked.com, or are for specific regions of the country that are not Charlottesville.



Appalachia Service Project is an organization that brings in volunteer groups from all over to perform home repair for low-income families in Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. People of all ages and backgrounds come throughout the year to not only work on people's homes, but also to visit with and to support the families that they are working for, providing just as much person-to-person building as home building.

The busiest time of year for ASP is by far the summer, as youth groups come from churches and community organizations to spend a week at a time in one of ASP's summer centers, often held in local schools or community buildings. At each location is a trained summer staff of four volunteers that organize everything for that center. These center staff volunteers do everything from coordinating with local services to feed the incoming groups to finding and setting up the repair schedule for local homes.

A large portion of the ASP center staff volunteer's job is information management. When are certain groups coming? What homes will they work on? What homes need to be covered by another center for a week? Where can center staff find building supplies? While some of this information is currently managed in an online system, it is not effective and does not meet all their needs.

Working directly with technical and organizational staff at ASP headquarters in Johnson City, TN, a team of six undergraduate computing majors are building a new system to meet the needs of the ASP summer center staff, to make their job easier so they can focus more on the volunteers, the homes, and the families being served.