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Skillpoint’s Velocity Students Impact Austin and Beyond

Interested in forming a partnership with our Velocity program? Contact us at velocity@skillpointalliance.org.


This spring, students from Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders teamed up to solve real world problems in the Austin area and beyond through Skillpoint’s Velocity program. The students partnered with Meals on Wheels, HOPE for Senegal, and the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) to design solar panels, mobile-friendly applications and a self sustaining garden that will strengthen Austin for years to come. We’re so proud of all the students accomplished! Read on for more details about each project:

 

HOPE for Senegal:

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A group of students from the Ann Richards School For Young Women Leaders were tasked by their client HOPE for Senegal to solve the issue of rolling blackouts at Lycee Malick Sy High School in Western Africa. The students created a company called Soleil Solutions that included a marketing team, technical team, communications department, and a research and development team. The students researched various forms of alternative energy and Skyped with students and teachers from Senegal in order to have a better understanding of how severe the rolling blackouts were. These online visits helped the students understand how important communication was during the project and how to be prepared with questions to ask the client regardless of the language barrier or cultural differences. After their research, the students developed a plan to install solar panels on top of Lycee Malick Sy’s High School. The solar panels would be only be used in the event of a blackout to conserve energy use, and would provide enough energy for the school to maintain electricity during the rolling blackouts.

 

Meals On Wheels:

IMG_1368A group of students from the Ann Richards School For Young Women Leaders were asked by their client, Meals on Wheels, to create an automated system to help the organization save money and efficiently keep track of cancelled meals. Meals On Wheels is a non-profit founded in 1972 that distributes over 3,000 meals each weekday to individuals who are home-bound or disabled. The students gathered data by delivering meals with volunteers to gain knowledge about what the meal delivery process was like. In addition, the students worked with employees in the call center to observe scenarios that customer service representatives handle. Once the research data was concluded the students proposed two easy-to-use, mobile-friendly applications in addition to a refined website that would streamline the process of cancelling meals. The first app is a client mobile application that will allow clients and their families to contact Meals On Wheels staff and case managers. The app will feature a cancellation page for clients to easily cancel their meals, and connect clients with Meals On Wheels sponsored or free community events. The second app is a volunteer mobile application that is exclusively for Meals On Wheels program volunteers to use while they are on delivery routes. The app will include route maps, cancellations, client information regarding meal plans, delivery info, and a Meals on Wheels contact page. Finally, the website will help clients and their families manage their Meals on Wheels accounts. The clients will work one-on-one with caseworkers to set up their accounts on the website, and friends and family members will be encouraged to train and educate Meals on Wheels clients on how to use the site. By logging into their account,  clients can view invoices for meal plans, fill out meal cancellation form that automatically sends an email to customer service, review their meal plans, change their diet, and contact their caseworker. The mobile app and website is projected to save Meals On Wheels an estimated $30,000 monthly in paper waste and time spent with client phone calls. Since 97-100% of Meals on Wheels clients don’t have access to wireless internet, these solutions will take place in certain neighborhoods following the installation of Google Fiber.

 

HACA: 
A group of students from the Ann Richards School For Young Women Leaders were tasked by the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA) to solve the issue of lack of shade within the Georgian Manor apartment complex and come up with a self-sustaining community garden and irrigation system for residents to access. The students came up three solutions to solve this problem. First, the students proposed a shade structure made of reinforced steel to be installed over the playground in the courtyard of Georgian Manor apartments. The students also constructed, “The Shade Project,” in order to educate residents about skin cancer, proper skin care, and the effects of the sun. The total cost of the project is $9,121.42 to install the shade structure above the playground. The students obtained a list of potential donors to cover the costs. As for the community garden, students came up with an open garden space designed to be used by the residents of Georgian Manor. The garden includes a self-sustaining irrigation system, and will consist of four raised, and four knee-level gardens. The gardens will be 32 inches high for easy use among residence in walkers and wheelchairs, and at least 10 feet away from resident apartments to maintain privacy. The garden will encompass informational posters surrounding the garden to educate residents about what is growing in the garden and to learn more about plant life.  To maintain the self-irrigation system, the students proposed using Ollas: porous clay pots that keeps plants healthy and hydrated. The students also pitched the idea of using plastic water bottles to hydrate the garden because they are easily accessible. The total cost of the project is $10,600 (homemade ollas) or $11,070 (purchased ollas). The benefits of the project would be access of healthy food options, reduced food budgets, and a sense of community.

We’re about to kick off our summer Velocity internships, so stay tuned for more exciting prototypes to come!