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.
The Key relies on accurate participation tracking to ensure that the work they do adds significant value to the kids and the community. Participation tracking allows The Key to measure who is engaging with their services, when they are engaging with these services, how often they are engaging with these services, and which services they use. This allows them to determine what types of volunteers/staff are needed at various times, so that they can advocate for and recruit for these positions. It also allows them to form a more holistic picture of individual kids: which staff have they interacted with, how many times have they attended, etc. Ideally, this information allows The Key to figure out what other services (housing, mental health) would benefit an individual. In addition, The Key relies heavily on donors, so demonstrating the benefit of The Key’s services is important for continued engagement from donors.
Last year, a Comps group developed a system to facilitate a crucial first step in this vision: moving The Key from a time consuming and messy paper-based participation tracking system to an online participation tracking system and database. The Key uses this online system on a daily basis, and it has helped them out tremendously, saving time and streamlining processes. However, as with any new system, several important issues have surfaced: the system is not as secure as it should be, and data confidentiality is not addressed to the extent it needs to be with this sensitive population; and the interface is not optimized for mobile devices, which is the primary way volunteers interact with the system. In addition, now that a system exists to more easily track participation, The Key can start to answer deeper questions about engagement and resource usage -- something the system can be modified to assist with.
In this project, you will be working with The Key to expand the participation tracking system developed by last year’s Comps group. The focus of this year’s project will be on three specific aspects of the participation tracking system:
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 modified participation tracking system for The Key, that focuses on secure, efficient, and effective data collection on mobile devices while retaining privacy/confidentiality of client data, as well as capabilities to analyze the data for larger trends.
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 (http://unionofyouth.org/) has a lot of good information about The Key and its programs.