CS Students Travel to Tanzania to Learn and Teach
Writer(s): Kristyn Childres
In May, five students from the Department of Computer Science traveled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for a service learning and study abroad experience. Accompanied by Department Head Sunil Prabhakar and Diversity Specialist Adrian Thomas, the students worked with children at Matumaini Primary School, which serves nearly 200 children with disabilities.
Purdue students introduced the children to computers with the goal of nurturing a desire to continue to work with technology. Children learned about basic technology, including spreadsheets, searching the web, word processing and cell phones.
“Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the majority of the population has minimal access to modern technology,” said Drew Atkinson, a rising senior in computer science. “Even this basic exposure will help students in a job market where they might otherwise be overlooked because of their disabilities.”
Austin Reed, a senior, said, "Many computer science students have a hard time explaining our ideas to others. This program is not only an amazing adventure, but also an opportunity to work on the communication skills that are vital in our field.”
Sophomore Kai Hoffman came back to the United States understanding more about herself, how she learns, and how children with disabilities learn. She said, "I assumed it was harder for children with disabilities, but that's not the case. They just learn to do things differently, and they never think twice about it. For example, one of the students had a hand impairment, so I assumed writing by hand was difficult for her. However, when we were doing an activity that required the kids to write things down, she just used both of her hands to pick up the pencil, and that was that. It was as easy for her to write as it is for me to write. That changed what I think about how different people learn different things in general, not just people with physical disabilities.”
Department Head Sunil Prabhakar said, “The Tanzania program is a point of pride for the Department of Computer Science. It is such an important experience for our students. It broadens their cultural competence and teaches them so much about the world and its people.”
Austin Reed said that it was hard to pinpoint which aspect of the trip was the best. “From seeing our favorite animal on safari, to riding a horse on the beach, to staying up late trying to make the best lesson plan in existence, to watching the students grow and practice the skills we taught them, to crying when they threw a party with us, there is no way to place value of any of these things over another. Every aspect of this trip was amazing.”