Atlanta, GA (PRWEB) December 4, 2008
The first grant competition for an online virtual world project that serves the community and contributes to student learning will be held, also online, at Second Life on December 4, 7 pm central time, according to the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation and the University of Texas. Four student teams from a UT course called "Working in a Virtual World" will vie for the prestigious Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur grant, with a prize of $1,000 to implement the winning project and certificates for students signed by President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Carter. The winning project will be the most innovative way for students to serve the community online in the virtual world Second Life.
"This CASE competition shows once again that when students are invited to design their own service learning experience, they come up with innovative and valuable contributions to our society as social entrepreneurs," said Foundation President Dr. Sue Sehgal. In addition to the $1,000 project grant for students to implement the project, The Carter Academic Service Entrepreneur (CASE) program provides a $500 scholarship upon completion of a final report and certificates of merit signed by President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Carter for the student and his or her faculty advisor. Example projects that will be presented on Thursday include:
Problem: Physical, social and political disasters are often so geographically and culturally remote that people who might help fail to appreciate the nature and extent of the situation. Solution: One UT team proposal would use the CASE grant to build an online, multi-player, virtual-world game to simulate life in Darfur, wherein survival is the object and famine, displacement and armed conflict are the opponents. Game players will realize how much is taken for granted in peace and prosperity and how important even small contributions can be in a disaster. Another project provides a virtual "ride" that helps participants understand the work of the nonprofit website Nothing But Nets.
Problem: An Austin (TX) nonprofit reaches out to needy individuals in rural Texas, but the cost of covering long distances reduces the effectiveness of the organization. Solution: One UT team proposal would use the CASE grant to build an online, virtual world extension of the agency's operations that would make it virtually costless to operate remotely. But rather than trying to envision every conceivable combination of circumstances and program a software solution that covers all of them, the UT student solution engages the nonprofit staff as avatars, thereby incorporating all their experience and troubleshooting skills. Further, client avatars can characterize their needs far more accurately and far faster than a "checklist" of options. The combination eliminates travel and remote operation cost without eliminating the skilled human intervention of the nonprofit's staff.
Problem: Austin (TX) SafePlace is the nation's largest shelter for victims of domestic violence. Training new associates at SafePlace is "baptism by fire" because the problems trainees face are "live" and often overwhelming. Solution: One UT team proposal would use the CASE grant to build an online, virtual world simulation of SafePlace where the avatars of trainees can learn to diagnose and deal with problems from hypothetical cases, safely apart from the actual operation of the shelter. The result is safe training for SafePlace. Plus, the students plan to hold a fund-raising "gala" online where participants from around the world can use "Linden dollars" to purchase necessities for shelter clients, then UT students will convert the "Linden dollars" to actual cash and purchase the items.
"Our students went way beyond the course requirements in competition for the CASE grant funding and recognition," said Mr. Joe Sanchez, course instructor. "We're proud of how these students have challenged themselves and opened new avenues for community service," he said, then added: "But don't take our word for it; you can see for yourself on December 4, 7pm central time at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Educators%20Coop%201/120/93/22."
The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation provides awards and grants to students for the most innovative new ideas in community development, linked to the students' academic programs. The Foundation helps service-minded students create exemplary, press-worthy accomplishments to encourage other students to dedicate a portion of their time, talents and resources to strengthening the communities they live in, online and offline. More information about CASE is at http://www.jrcpf.org and http://www.servicebook.org/content/view/338/155/.
The School of Information is a top-ranked national graduate program at the University of Texas that educates leaders for the information professions. It's research mission is to advance knowledge of the role of information in society, across its lifecycle from creation, through use, to curation. Its focus on information in its social context, from a single user searching for a document to a government determining the access of its citizenry to public records, reaches into schools and corporations, design companies and libraries, museums and archives, wherever people search for, read and store documented knowledge.