Class project helps divert 170,000 pounds of food from the dumpster

Sean Wiese’s project for a computer science class last year has been developed into a software application now being used by a Boulder nonprofit, and also led to an internship for Wiese with the nonprofit.

A senior in the BS/MS computer science program at CU-Boulder, Wiese designed the web application for Boulder Food Rescue (BFR), a nonprofit network of volunteers who deliver perishable food donated from the Center for Community on campus and local grocery stores to social service organizations serving homeless and at-risk individuals in Boulder.

“A lot of CU students are involved,” said Wiese, who is from from Centennial, Colo. “It’s a small, local organization that has a big impact in the community. What’s unique about this organization is that we rescue fresh fruits and vegetables for people who don’t always have access to healthy food.”

Since BFR was founded a year ago, more than 170,000 pounds of produce and baked goods have been diverted from the dumpster. Wiese’s online administrative tool enables BFR to track pickups and deliveries of food and manage the schedules of 70 volunteers, thus optimizing its limited resources.

For his work with BFR, Wiese received a Casey Feldman Foundation award. The foundation has provided funding for a civic engagement program in computer science that offers a paid internship for computer science students who assist non-profit organizations with their technology needs. Wiese is the first intern in the program.

“I can use the resources of the grant and the experience of the internship to expand and grow my work,” said Wiese.

In April of this year, Wiese was a member of a CU-Boulder team named among the top 10 winners in the international Mathematical Contest in Modeling. Their winning entry was a computer model designed to optimize the flow of river rafts down a theoretical river.

After he graduates in May 2013, Wiese will work as a software development engineer on Microsoft Dynamics at Microsoft’s office in Seattle, Washington.

“I’ve had the opportunity,” said Wiese, “to work on a variety of research projects and two corporate internships where I was able to use the fundamental computing skills taught in class to solve real world problems. This hands-on experience outside the classroom has adequately prepared me for a job a Microsoft.”

To learn about volunteer opportunities at CU-Boulder visit http://volunteer.colorado.edu/volunteer-opportunities and to learn more about becoming civically engaged visit http://www.colorado.edu/iece/.

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