Essential Pittsburgh
2:42 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Geeks on a Mission: CMU Grads Engage in Technological Humanitarian Work

Dr. Alex Hills talks about the challenges and rewards of bringing technological systems to NGOs in developing nations.
Credit Katie Blackley / 90.5WESA

At the Carnegie Mellon University Technology Consulting in the Global Community program, students are matched with worldwide non-governmental organizations to assist these humanitarian groups with technological support.

Dr. Alexander Hills, senior adviser for the program, has compiled a book of five essays by these young professionals. The book Geeks on a Mission: In Their Own Words, reflects the students amazing experiences and the impact on the global communities they aid.

“Yes, we help people and that’s a good thing, but what it does for the student is really, really impressive,” he says.

The role of the students begins with assessing the problems of the NGO and brainstorming ideas to solve them. Often, Hills says, the problems that actually need to be solved within the organization are very different from what the organization might think, and the students are an essential part of that discovery.

The students then begin to train and assist workers at the NGO’s. This fosters the sustainability of any implemented program long after the students have left.

Dr. Hills is a distinguished service professor at Carnegie Mellon University and also played an intricate role in the development of Wi-Fi. He then documented his experiences in Wi-Fi and the Bad Boys of Radio.