Advisor: Amy Csizmar Dalal
Youth services, especially services for at-risk youth like The Key in Northfield, are a valuable resource to the Northfield community. Not only do they provide places and activities for kids to stay active and engaged, but they are also safe spaces where highly trained staff can form enriching relationships with kids who might not have many adult role models in their lives.
In order for these services to remain free and accessible, The Key must prove to financial donors that the work they do adds significant value to the kids and the community. One of the primary ways they can do this is by demonstrating through participation tracking that a significant number of kids use their services. However, there are several challenges to tracking participation effectively, efficiently, and securely. Data entry consumes a lot of time and resources, and the current software The Key uses (CitySpan) does not make this task easy. Figuring out what to track and how to track it is also challenging. Some of the information attached to services is sensitive and confidential, involving information that kids share privately with staff members. Finally, determining what data to present to donors and how to present this data is a non-trivial undertaking.
Better tracking of participation is just the beginning. Armed with this information, The Key can measure not just who is engaging, but how deeply are individuals engaging with the services. They can determine what other services they should be offering, or how best to tweak the services they currently offer. At a higher level, this will allow them to determine how their services are changing the behavior of the kids they serve, allowing them to better invest their resources and to tailor programs and resources to individuals.
In this project, you will be working with The Key to develop a secure and robust system to simplify data collection and participation tracking and the presentation of that data. The system must allow for certain types of information to be shared with Northfield Youth Services, financial donors, and other youth service organizations, while retaining proper levels of access and privacy/confidentiality. In the process of doing so, you will also develop a “roadmap” demonstrating how The Key can use its improved participation tracking to accomplish some of its other goals, like resource investment and tailoring, measuring depth of engagement, etc.
The project will involve the following stages:
This is an academic civic engagement (ACE) Comps project. This means that The Key is our client for this project. In addition to all of the other goodness that you will gain by participating in CS Comps, you will also learn to (1) interact with a real-world client in a professional manner, (2) produce a product that will be used by real people in the real world, and (3) improve the lives of at-risk youth in Northfield.
Primary: A secure and robust system to simplify the task of participation tracking for The Key, that focuses on efficient and effective data collection and analysis, and the presentation of that data, while retaining privacy/confidentiality of client data when needed. A roadmap showing how this fits into the larger goals of The Key of ensuring their programming and services are having an impact on their clients.
Secondary: A presentation and release of your product to The Key and its stakeholders, along with any associated documentation/training.
This project is well suited for students who want to utilize their computer science skills to benefit the Northfield community and who are interested in working closely with clients. CS 344 (Human-Computer Interaction) or CS 100 (Human-Centered Computing) would be nice, but is not required. Similarly, experience working on other ACE projects or with community groups is recommended, but not required.
One of your first tasks on this project will be to identify appropriate sources and resources to guide the design and development process. This literature review should touch on the following areas:
In addition, The Key’s web site has a lot of information about The Key and its programs.