On Campus

Tech updates to aid US in 2017-18 school year

By the time the 2017-18 academic year begins in the fall, the school will have benefitted from two new technological advancements to ease manual processes for the English department and the community service program.
Vishnu Murale and Cassandra Kane (both ’17) are busy creating a program to make allocating senior English electives easier, and Community Service Coordinators Meena Kaur and Candie Sanderson are slated to move the input of service hours online.
Vishnu and Cassandra, who have programmed for four and three years respectively, were inspired to act when English Department members came to their Advanced Topics in Computer Science class just before the beginning of Senior Spring Project to request an improvement in the organization of senior English electives. Currently, English Department Head Sharon Krauss spends weeks sorting students into their classes based on the hard-copy course request forms they submit.
Using the computer language Python, Vishnu and Cassandra teamed up to create a program that uses a point system to sort students into their English courses, allowing the computer to read qualitative data as numerical data. The program assigns points to each student based on the qualitative data such as the student’s requested classes, the amount of open space in the student’s class preference, and the gender balance in each section. It then uses the scores to optimize placement.
They both said they are excited about their progress thus far and enjoy working on creating a more effective process for the English department.
“It’s a chance for us to do computer science and work towards a practical solution that can save someone a lot of time,” Vishnu said. “We really feel good about doing that work, especially when we know that it is useful.”
Although the programmers said they hope the project will be completed by the end of the summer, they will still have to consult Ms. Krauss and compile instructions for future teachers who may use the program.
Ms. Kaur and Ms. Sanderson also hope to finish digitizing community service hours before the 2017-18 school year begins.
They plan to create an account for each student on a website called x2VOL, which allows students to upload their own community service documentation. Each time a student enters service hours onto their account, Ms. Kaur, Ms. Sanderson, and the supervisor of the student’s service will receive an email to verify them.
“Currently, I spend hours entering all the data from the forms that the students had to fill out by hand. But this program will open up a lot of time for [the community service coordinators] to work on more useful things,” Ms. Kaur said. In the time freed up, she explained, she and Ms. Sanderson hope to promote regular involvement in community service.
“We believe that educating the student body on community service opportunities can encourage students,” Ms. Sanderson said. “Community service should be more than ‘go there and do this.’”
Ms. Sanderson pointed to the last two community service afternoons, when speakers came to talk about how their organizations work and what the school’s participation means to them, as effective programming.
The website will compile the students’ community service information into a transcript, creating an official list of the student’s hours. Other features include an online bulletin board advertising service opportunities in school and in the local Boston area and a goal-setting function so that students can set the number of hours they want to reach.
“We’re really excited about this and all the benefits it will have,” Ms. Sanderson said. “We want to give [students] a better sense of ownership of their own service. With this new system, they should be able to track their progress on their own—they’ll have more autonomy and transparency.”

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