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Tech4Community unites social work and engineering students to solve local problems

Hugo Gonzalez, doctoral candidate in engineering, works on developing Resume4All, an application designed to help residents in low-income communities. Credit: Courtesy of Hugo Gonzalez

Social workers and engineers aren’t usually brought together to solve societal problems, but Tech4Community is trying to change that.

Since its inception in 2014, T4C has developed as a cooperative engagement project that brings Ohio State’s social work and engineering students together to support local, underserved communities. Collectively, the students work to identify the needs of a community, and then develop new technology to meet those needs.

T4C’s current initiative involves developing a mobile application, Resume4All, aimed to help residents in the Franklinton neighborhood construct a resume, even without access to programs such as Microsoft Office.

Sally Levy, the Tax Time program manager at United Way and a summer 2016 graduate of OSU’s master’s program in social work, was among a select number of social work students that have worked with T4C.

“Most interdisciplinary work relating to social work is in the medical field, or in various social services, so it’s not super often that you get to interact with engineers,” Levy said.

Hugo Gonzalez, a doctoral candidate in engineering, said he found the experience of working with social workers useful.

“We found a lot in common with social work. Both engineering and social work are applied sciences,” he said. “We have a lot in common in going straight to the practical implementation.”

Prior to his involvement in T4C, Gonzalez had three years of experience working as an engineer with rural communities in his home country of Paraguay. Gonzalez said that while there are distinct differences between working in Paraguay and the United States, both are rewarding experiences.

“Working with rural communities in a developing country is way different than working with low-income communities here in the United States. So that was really challenging, but challenging in a good sense,” Gonzalez said.

Levy said she performed a needs assessment composed of three components to identify the needs of the local community in the case of Resume4All. These components included conducting focus groups, interviewing stakeholders in the area and surveying the people of Franklinton.

This assessment revealed that most Franklinton residents have smartphones or tablets and are able to use the internet, Gonzalez said. This passion for Franklinton coupled with access to smartphone technology prompted the engineering team to develop Resume4All.

“I believe that by the end of this semester we’ll be able to publish the beta in Android, or the beginning of summer,” Gonzalez said.

T4C has the potential to expand if enough people show interest, Gonzalez said.

“We are looking for people that could continue this work,” he said. “After publishing this app, we want to go ahead and reach out more to the homeless population, for example.”

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