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MIT students help with computers and IT skills in schools

5 February 2013

MIT students help with computers and IT skills in schools

In a unique arrangement, Manukau Institute of Technology students are helping the trust which delivers computers and digital technology to children in Auckland’s oldest state housing community.

The Manaiakalani Education Trust works with nine decile one schools in Glen Innes, Pt England and Panmure.

It provides a wide range of digital resources, tools and advice, with the aim of inspiring students and improving their overall school experience and results.

Manaiakalani has a huge database of government, philanthropic, business and community partnerships, but keeping up with bookwork was starting to become overwhelming for the small team.

“We managed everything via spreadsheets and email, so it was no surprise that we were feeling there must be a better way,” says Manaiakalani Education Trust executive officer Jenny Oxley.

Business consultancy Davanti have a close relationship with the trust and was also looking for a way to provide mentoring and work experience opportunities for MIT students.

MIT Bachelor of Information Systems (BIS) students Simon Wilkinson, Renuka Sharma and Nicole Marcelo, under supervision from Edwina Mistry MIT’s Project Supervisor, were charged with delivering a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that would make life easier for the trust.

Each student put in a minimum of 450 hours work as part of the project, which is a requirement to complete the BIS degree. They produced a tailored CRM system that the Manaiakalani Education Trust is thrilled with. For example, the trust’s debt collection process now takes one hour, as opposed to three days.

“Working with MIT students, under the guidance of Raymond Yong and Phillipa Wallace from Davanti Consulting, really helped determine our business requirements and to see how we could bring a much higher level of efficiency and professionalism into our operations,” Ms Oxley says.

Trust chairman Pat Snedden was impressed with the Davanti’s willingness to bring in the MIT students.

“I salute the Davanti team for their willingness to champion this initiative and for their generosity in sharing their knowledge and skills to such an extent. We are delighted with what has been achieved and the difference it will make to our work,” Mr Snedden says.

MIT student Simon Wilkinson says it was a privilege to work on a project of such importance to the community.

“Manaiakalani are achieving huge educational results for these kids. It was motivating to help make their systems more manageable, leaving them time to do the good work,” Simon says.

Davanti Principal Robert Carter says the project provided a rewarding way for its people to partner with the trust to improve employment outcomes for children, as well as providing mentoring opportunities for MIT students.

“It was great to be able to make our business knowledge and expertise available to the trust, as well as provide the MIT students with an opportunity to participate in a project that taught them new skills and helped them transfer their academic learnings into the real business world,” said Mr Carter.

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