Computer science is taking on a public-service bent at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where students and faculty in a new program are using code to combat societal problems like homelessness and the spread of HIV.
The program, dubbed “Computing for Good,” or “C4G” for short, spun out of a course taught last spring by Santosh Vempala, a computer-science professor at Georgia Tech, and two other faculty members. Students in the class, which saw its enrollment jump to 50 this fall from 17 last spring, developed mobile kiosks for recording war-crimes testimony in Liberia and built a Web-based monitoring system for blood supplies that the World Health Organization is considering deploying worldwide. Other projects included developing computerized systems for Atlanta homeless shelters trying to manage occupancy levels and Internet access for low-income Atlanta residents.
Mr. Vempala said the course, which is offered to both undergraduate and graduate students, was started in the hope of giving students and professors a chance to work on real-world problems. The work also provides specific research challenges: Unlike some of the more theoretical problems that computer scientists often deal with, those designing solutions for nonprofit groups must often deal with resource constraints and make sure customers are seeing tangible results from the programs, he said.
Stefany Wilson, a spokeswoman for the College of Computing, said the C4G is also exploring industry partnerships and expanded faculty research efforts.—David Shieh