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Ethan Liu ’16 learns the importance of clear communication in computer applications

By Upstate Institute on September 2, 2014

Ethan Liu ’16 is a computer science major from Chongqing, China who wanted to complete a Field School Fellowship this summer by using some of the skills that he is developing through his computer science courses at Colgate. The Upstate Institute matched him with Hospice and Palliative Care of Chenango County, where he worked with their staff to create tools that will help them work more efficiently.

Ethan Liu '16 and Kendall Drexler at the offices of Hospice and Palliative Care of Chenango County

Ethan Liu ’16 and Kendall Drexler at the offices of Hospice and Palliative Care of Chenango County

He began his project by writing a computer program that generates a network diagram, which is required to ensure that Hospice is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) as part of the compliance to HIPAA. He also developed a spreadsheet for a quality assurance report that will allow staff to update the graph automatically.

Ethan wanted to work on website design and development this summer, so he worked with Hospice to create a new website prototype for the organization. Their previous website was costly to maintain, and required outside assistance for any updates. By using WordPress, Ethan’s new site makes the site easier to maintain by Hospice staff and includes new features such as a slider, a Facebook plugin, a dropdown menu, a new donation page, and embedded videos. He also created several infographics and poster templates that the Hospice staff can keep updated and can use to promote their services and attract donations.

Overall, Ethan’s work with Hospice this summer served to increase work efficiency. Ethan used the experience to build his own computer science skills, such as programming using Python and working with data structures and graph theory. However, the most valuable part of his work with Hospice was learning how to develop and deliver a product after clear communication with a community organization. By engaging the Hospice staff in detailed discussions about what they wanted to get out of Ethan’s projects, he learned that great communication with a client make the engineering of a great product possible—a lesson that he will undoubtedly use in computer-based projects in the future.

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