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Carnegie Mellon Interns Tackle Tech Projects in Bangladesh

A group of Carnegie Mellon students and alumni from the university's Pittsburgh and Qatar campuses did 10-week internships this summer on a couple of technology projects to help students in Bangladesh.

One effort involved creating an educational tool to enhance English literacy among pre-college students at the Asian University for Women. The other focused on determining features for a standalone Braille writing tutor for visually impaired students, which is being developed by Young Power in Social Action, a Bangladesh organization that puts young people to work helping others.

Four interns were based in Bangladesh and one in Pittsburgh.

Participants were part of Carnegie Mellon's Student Technology ExPerience (iSTEP) internship, launched last year by the university's TechBridgeWorld program. The purpose of iSTEP is to give experience to students in applying their knowledge and skills for creative problem solving in unfamiliar settings. TechBridgeWorld is a program to bring advancements to developing communities.

"Not many internships allow their participants to see how people interact with their work on the same level as iSTEP," said Anthony Velázquez, a 2010 computer science graduate who was the technical lead for the Braille writing tutor project in Chittagong. "Nothing beats my experience where I witnessed a visually impaired student repeat everything she just learned from the Braille writing tutor with a big smile on her face. It completely changes the purpose of your work, to know whom you are developing for, and it helps you to understand why your work is valuable."

"When I applied for the iSTEP 2010 internship, I was looking for an experience that would be hands-on, provide an opportunity to learn about a new location and new communities, and help me to develop a stronger understanding of international development work," said Jennifer Horwitz, a graduate student in public policy and management, who was the team's needs assessment and evaluation coordinator. "This internship has been all of these things and more."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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