by Sammy Zucker and Spencer Miner
Bridges from School to Work is an organization that helps connect students in special needs programs with employers. The program, funded by the Marriott Foundation, reduces barriers to entry by supporting students in the application process and providing them with job skills training. Bridges focuses on long-term employment and maintains a relationship with participants after the initial job-placement, advising participants on issues such as when to ask for a raise.
In the winter, TechTeam built a virtual mentor to help ease the burden on Bridges’ employer representatives (ERs). The mentor was designed to answer the students’ frequently asked questions. The students interact with the virtual mentor through a mobile app, which can filter responses based on the individual’s disability and personal attributes.
Bridges from School to Work has kept detailed records on current and past students. Part of TechTeam’s project was centered around designing a server and API to process the data and apply it to preferences in the mobile app. The API also receives the answers from the ERs which it pushes to the mobile app. The server team was led by third year and Computer Science and Physics major Christopher Walker.
Currently, a separate team led by Devshi Mehrotra, a second year Computer Science major in the college, is developing the mobile app aspect of the project. The app will allow students to search for, filter, and save questions. It will be designed so that font styles, colors, and information layout are clear and accessible regardless of disability.
The combination of the API and app will allow for easier and more streamlined communication between the students and their mentors.