Humanitarian FOSS Summer 2008 Institute Completes Its Work

Group photo of Summer 2008 Participants
The 2008 Humanitarian-FOSS Summer Institute recently held its final project presentations by the participants from the summer 2008 H-FOSS Institute.

Category: announcement
Posted by: Trishan

Interns Engage in “Building Software for Society”



The 2008 Humanitarian-FOSS Summer Institute, part of a research effort that engages undergraduates in building free and open source software (FOSS) that benefits society, recently held its final project presentations.

Interns from Trinity College, Wesleyan University, Connecticut College, the University of Hartford and the University of Connecticut showcased five software projects that served a variety of humanitarian applications, from Hartford to Africa to Sri Lanka.

Principal investigator Ralph Morelli, professor of computer science at Trinity, praised the students for “their hard work and their dedication to building software that serve the community.”

“It was a challenging and productive summer,” Morelli told the interns, most of whom will be sophomores and juniors in the fall. “We threw you in the deep end and you swam like champions.”

The five projects all had unique humanitarian goals: from helping the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford to more easily manage their labs; to adding a credential-verification module to the Sahana crisis-management system; to adding functionality to OpenMRS (a medical records system used in various African countries); to helping develop a data mining system that can discover disease outbreaks by reading news reports; to developing customizable search-and-identification software for use on cell phones.

Group photo of Summer 2008 Participants


Pictured in this photo, starting lower left to right: Myles Garvey, Vinit Agrawal, Juan Pablo Mendoza, Rachel Foecking, Sarah Thayer, Prasanna Gautam, Joshua Sibbles, Matthew Stanko, Eli Fox-Epstein, Antonio Alcorn, Qianqian Lin, Christopher Fei, James Jackson, Dimitar Gochev, Triashan de Lanerolle, Ernel Wint, Prof. Ozgur Izmirli of Connecticut College, Prof. Ralph Morelli of Trinity College, Prof. Danny Krizanc of Wesleyan University and Carlos Espinosa of Trinfo.Café.

The H-FOSS Project ( challenges some of the myths about computer science by demonstrating that computing is mostly about working in teams to build software that benefits society. The project was inspired by Sahana, a free and open source disaster-management system that was created in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami. With help from some present and former H-FOSS interns, Sahana was most recently deployed in China to help locate missing persons and organize refugee camps in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake. Trinity, Connecticut College, and Wesleyan students have been contributing software for the Sahana project since the summer of 2006.

All of the software developed by H-FOSS is built using modern, industry-standard software tools and is distributed free under licenses that permit users to use, modify, and redistribute the software. Throughout the summer, the 2008 interns used free and open communications software and tools to collaborate closely with professional FOSS developers in Sri Lanka, Argentina, Boston, and Indianapolis.

Each summer intern received a stipend and free housing on the Trinity campus. H-FOSS is funded by a National Science Foundation grant under its Pathways to Revitalized Undergraduate Computing Education program. Ten interns were funded by the National Science Foundation, one by the Arthur Vining Davis Fellowship program, and another by the Interdisciplinary Science Program at Trinity College. Each team worked with faculty, industry mentors from Accenture Corporation, and domain experts from InSTEDD; the George Washington University Institute for Crisis, Disaster, and Risk Management; OpenMRS; and Sahana.

The students who participated in the projects were Sarah Thayer, ’10, Christopher Fei, ’10, Rachel Foecking, ’11, Vinit Agrawal, ’10, Prasanna Gautam, ’11, and Dimitar Gochev, ’11, from Trinity College; Myles Garvey,’09, from the University of Hartford; Antonio Alcorn,’09, from the University of Connecticut; Ernel Wint,’09, and James Jackson,’11, from Connecticut College; and Qianqian Lin,’11, Eli Fox-Epstein,’11, and Juan Pablo Mendoza,’10, from Wesleyan University.

High school students who also participated were Matthew Stanko, and Joshua Sibbles.

They worked under the guidance of Morelli and Trishan de Lanerolle, ’04, of Trinity College.


(Reproduced from original Trinity College Press Release)