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Empowering the Under-Served, One App @ a Time

Wednesday, Apr. 30, 2014

The School of Engineering's Frugal Innovation Lab and San Jose's Tech Museum of Innovation put on their first Social Innovation Workshop last Sunday, April 27. Sponsored by NASDAQ and Accenture, the workshops (this being the first of four to be held in 2014) focus on how technology can be harnessed to benefit humanity.

"Empowering the Under-Served, One App @ a Time" engaged 30 middle school students for 3 hours at The Tech, where they learned how to empathize with homeless people in Santa Clara County and design mobile applications to improve their lives. Participants were quickly absorbed in the tasks of identifying and defining a problem faced by homeless people, and then designing the functionality and architecture of a mobile application to solve that problem.

To help participants create realistic technology ideas, SCU Computer Engineering Associate Professor Silvia Figueira spoke about mobile projects that help the homeless, including several tools that were designed during the "Hack for the Homeless" event, held at Santa Clara last month. Other participants included a 2013 Tech Awards Laureate, Alejandro Maza, who discussed how his social enterprise in Mexico City (OPI) is leveraging the use of technology to support initiatives in crime prevention, public health, and education. Radha Basu, Director of the Frugal Innovation Lab, taught participants how to innovate for under-served communities, with a design innovation process that emphasizes empathy above all else. The Community Technology Alliance (CTA) in San Jose also provided first-hand narratives about homeless people living in the participants' own neighborhoods, and a young CTA client, who has experienced homelessness in the past, was brave enough to share her experiences with the group.

Upcoming workshops this year include: 3D Bio-Printing for Public Health, Renewable Materials for Structural Stability (during seismic activity), and Pathogen Detection and Clean Water Monitoring. Check The Tech's website for more information on how to get involved.

Submitted by Elizabeth Sweeny

Tags: engineering, frugal innovation

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