There are times when an organization that helps others needs a little help for itself.
Such was the case for local social services agency, Agape, when it was time to upgrade technology earlier this year. Two Bloomsburg University students and their faculty adviser seized the opportunity to serve the community, while further developing skills the students will need after graduation.
Seniors Kyle Flick of Bloomsburg and Leonid Kukuyev of Brooklyn, N.Y., have worked on several projects under the name, DataLab, according to Hayden Wimmer, assistant professor of business education and information and technology management. The trio established the BU DATALab to offer development and technology assistance to small businesses and organizations.
Among their major DataLab projects was development of the website and data entry form for the crowd hydrology project, Fishing Creek Watershed Hydro Watch. Led by faculty member Patricia Beyer and supported by a BU Strategic Planning and Resource Council grant, the hydrology project will enable volunteers and emergency services personnel to observe and report local water levels to create a computer-based flood forecasting model.
The pair also worked with Wimmer to write code for a computer application that will remove personally identifiable traits from data sources used in medical research. Supported by BU’s Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (URSCA) and Office of Research and Sponsored Programs grants, the pair specialized in different portions of the project, named Mining Jade. They presented their results during the fourth annual Susquehanna Valley Undergraduate Research Symposium at Geisinger Health System’s Henry Hood Center in August.
At the recommendation of Tim Pelton, BU’s civic engagement coordinator who also is involved in the crowd hydrology project, the BU DataLab is redesigning Agape’s website. They also installed and configured workstations for use by staff and clients and developed an inventory management system free of charge, seeing their service as an opportunity for experiential learning. In addition to their volunteer efforts, they are pursuing technology consulting services for local businesses, available at a minimal fee.
Flick and Kukuyev said DataLab’s Agape project gave them a different perspective – working to meet the needs of a client. A faith-based non-profit organization, Agape led relief efforts following the 2011 flood and continues to provide support to area residents in need.
Flick, who plans to graduate in December, has already been offered a job as a web application developer with a major area employer and believes his experience with DataLab opened the door for the opportunity. Kukuyev, the president of BU’s Information and Technology Management (ITM) Club who expects to graduate in May 2015, praises the experience, as well.
“The amount of experience I gained with DataLab and the URSCA project is immeasurable,” he said. “I now feel extremely marketable with two or three years of experience.”
For information on Agape, see Agapelovefromabove.org; for information on DataLab, see http://organizations.bloomu.edu/datalab