Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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BU student group unveils apps for nonprofit causes

Boston University’s Global App Initiative hosted a fair Saturday showcasing mobile applications its members have spent a year developing for 12 nonprofit organizations.

GAI president Habib Khan, a College of Engineering senior, said the event was intended to celebrate the innovation of GAI’s student volunteers who are learning new skills to build apps for nonprofits.

“GAI chooses the nonprofit organizations we work with based on several factors, including their communicative ability, their mission and whether there is truly potential for a mobile app that helps them in a meaningful way,” Khan said.

“These nonprofits must work with the student team throughout the year, guiding them toward a sensible solution that they will end up using.”

Teams of BU students developed apps for organizations such as Engineers Without Borders, Peer Health Exchange and Students Helping Honduras.

Peer Health Exchange is an organization that provides health education in communities where students do not have access to public health programs. One team designed an app for the organization’s BU chapter that contains an anonymous message board allowing students to submit questions to teachers in the program.

The app also contains sex education resources and allows teachers to coordinate classes and provide lesson plans. Santiago Beltran, an ENG freshman, is BU’s team leader for the Peer Health Exchange app.

“It was a really interesting challenge,” he said. “It was nice to develop an app for an organization with an important mission.”

Global Brigades is a student-led global health and sustainable development organization. One team developed an app for the BU chapter that will allow members to view updates, check their fundraising progress and keep track of what documentation and medical shots they will need before their trip.

The app also offers an offline mode, which contains a Spanish dictionary and a list of frequently asked questions for to aid students on the ground in another country without Internet access.

Bobby Palladino, a freshman in ENG, is the app’s design leader. He said although the team was assembled four weeks ago, the positive feedback they have received has been encouraging.

“We’re also communicating with [the Global Brigades] organization and it’s really helpful and rewarding to work with them,” he said. “They give us feedback on what they want to see, and it’s really helpful and nice to know that our app is actually going to be making a difference.”

FeelGood BU is a student-run volunteer organization that operates grilled cheese delis and donates all proceeds to groups that fight global hunger.

Chris Yip, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences freshman, heads the organization’s app development team. The app makes it convenient for students to order grilled cheese sandwiches by allowing them to place their orders before walking to Marciano Commons’ Late Night Kitchen, he said.

“I’m not your average computer science or engineering student,” Yip said, “but working with people to improve a cause, to get a project out, was something that I really liked in high school and something I wanted to find here.”

Nabin Kim, a School of Management junior, said she attended the fair to see what kind of apps students were working on.

“It’s a really good idea to make apps for nonprofits for free, because you can build experience and it’s for a good cause,” Kim said.

Claire Richer, a College of Arts and Sciences junior, said she enjoyed the event and was impressed by the apps students developed.

“More people should know about this,” she said. “It’s something BU can be really proud of.”

Khan said the GAI decided to showcase students’ apps to raise awareness about the importance of developing technology for nonprofits.

“Anyone who is passionate and dedicated has the ability to make mobile apps that help people,” he said. “I want people to see that students who had no prior background in computer science are able to apply themselves and develop an awesome mobile app.”

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