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Brookfield Central Students Coding for a Cause

BC student explains software development

Under the leadership of Brookfield Central Computer Science teacher, Ryan Osterberg, a number of students at the school have received real-world programming experience that is making an impact on local non-profits and community members in need.

In the summer of 2017, Osterberg took 10 junior and senior students and partnered with SafeNet Consulting for a software development internship to benefit non-profit companies. Rather than simply simulating experiences in the classroom, Osterberg wanted to provide students with real-world programming opportunities that could have a huge community service impact. Their first project was to create a data management system for Life Navigators, an organization that serves thousands of children and adults with disabilities. The students worked for eight weeks in the summer with a project manager and developer to create a full data management system that helps track user data and eases the processes of time management and state reporting. Through the creation of the software, students learned all aspects of software development, and post-launch the system led to an increase in jobs at the organization and more efficient work processes.

Central student and SafeNet intern, Daniel Anderson, said, "working with clients is a unique experience structured differently from anything in the classroom because of the flexibility you have to learn in your day-to-day objectives. Experiencing this program helped me learn enormous amounts of programming and teamwork skills, while knowing that I'm making a difference in my community."

This school year, Osterberg wanted to continue to provide this same project-based experience for his students within the structure of a class period. He taught layered software concepts or 'full-stack development' in the classroom that students would then apply to a real-world scenario. The students began collaborating with a brand new non-profit through SafeNet named Heroes For Healthcare that was looking for a similar data management program. Heroes for Healthcare retrains veterans to help them find employment in the healthcare industry.

The students set out to create a data management tool that tracks the capacity in which the organization helps the veterans, from educational advancement to job placement and beyond. In the last months of the school year, students began demonstrating parts of the software for the company and several will continue the project into the upcoming summer to work alongside project managers and roll out the software in full force. "This type of experience is not being done anywhere else - it's hard to even find applied full-stack development at the college level," said Osterberg. "The skills that these students are learning and the way they're applying them to the benefit of their community is incredible - they're literally saving lives through their work."

This year, Anderson had the opportunity to help Osterberg teach a student group web design concepts and lead them in their work with Heroes For Healthcare. "I was able to learn as much from my experience teaching as I have in the classes I've taken," said Daniel. This summer, he will be working as a project manager for SafeNet helping two full teams work with new non-profits, and is excited to see what the future of the program brings as it begins to partner with multiple school districts to expand the impact of their work throughout Wisconsin.

Next school year, Osterberg will teach programming through Elmbrook's LAUNCH program. These lessons will serve as a preparatory course for more summer projects with SafeNet Consulting. Companies interested in sponsoring the work done at LAUNCH can become Project Champions by clicking here.

To learn more about Elmbrook's Community Partner, SafeNet Consulting, visit its website at safenetconsulting.com.

See photos of the students demonstrating their software below: