Engineering the future: Where tech meets social good

Yingyu Sun Computer Science, Design Teams, Professional & Academic, Service, Viterbi Life, Viterbi Orgs, Yingyu

Hey guys! As usual, happy Friday! Midterm season is over and it’s finally feeling like fall here and I couldn’t be more excited. If you’re wondering what engineering students are doing now that they don’t have exams to study for, I have some cool news for you! Being an engineering student isn’t all about the homework assignments and the exams (although they are very important!) Engineering is so much more than just the technical aspect. It’s about tying in those concepts with real issues around the world that we can solve by collaborating with all types of engineers. When I decided I wanted to major in some field of engineering, I hoped to contribute what I learn towards solving those problems.

I’ve been very lucky to have found a group of people at USC with that same goal — and that’s what’s so great about college! You’re going to meet people who share your passions and they’ll become the people who inspire you and motivate you to do more. At USC, I joined a student organization called Code the Change during my freshman year. We’re essentially a team of student developers and designers who partner with non-profits in LA to come up with tech solutions to some social issues. We work in teams and collaborate with each other to build web and mobile applications that the non-profits actually use when we’re done!

This year, we have three amazing projects that really embody the spirit of using engineering for social good. The first is with an organization called Green Dot Public Schools (I’m on this team!). Their mission is to help students from all backgrounds get resources to not only graduate from high school and attend a university, but to also excel in the public education system. We’re building a mobile application for students to connect with other students, resources, and events that will help them throughout their time in school and beyond.

We’re also working with the LA Mayor’s office on a new project this semester! This is super exciting because it’s always nice to see that the government is willing to take up initiatives to help make people’s lives better and working with them so far has really shown that. The Mayor’s office has so much data about various stats in LA like homelessness, water usage, etc. that accumulates over time but really isn’t used — our team is upgrading the mayor’s dashboard to help make that database of information more digestible. The Mayor’s office hopes to use all this information to help start new initiatives and help non-profits reach out to more people in the area.

Finally, we’re working with a startup cancer research company called CancerBase on a project that will help make the huggeeeee database of cancer research more accessible and understandable for patients. The team is building a mobile app that curates data and displays it in a timeline way (like Twitter) that helps patients understand their progress in treatment, and points out any notable trends that might be brought up to a doctor! The idea is to help make the process of cancer treatment less daunting by helping patients understand exactly what’s going on.

I love talking about these projects because there are so many different ways our technology can be used to help people around LA! At the same time, we also have the opportunity to learn so many new things and to experience working with a real client. Our projects are built with web technologies like Django, React, Redux and more! These were all things I knew nothing about before I joined, but I am constantly surrounded by an amazing group of people who help me understand the concepts and encourage me to learn more.

I hope you know now that classes are only a small part of what engineering at USC is about! There are so many organizations and groups on campus who use their engineering skills to give back to the community. Check out all the Viterbi organizations here and I can’t wait to see what you do as an engineer!

About the Author

Yingyu is a junior studying Computer Science. Click above to find out more!

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