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Westminster College Computer Science Major Presents Interdisciplinary Work

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Posted on Friday, November 4, 2016

Westminster College junior computer science major, Rachael Huff, presented her work, “User Friendly Enhancements to a Citizen Science, Water Monitoring Website,” at the Ohio River Consortium for Research and Education conference at Youngstown State University.

Huff worked over the summer in collaboration with Dr. Helen Boylan, professor of chemistry and environmental science, to improve the Lawrence and Mercer Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM) website.

On the ALLARM website, anyone can access and upload information about local water quality as well as photos and videos and other educational material about water safety. To make the site more accessible, Huff created a dashboard to easily view information from monitored streams and developed an app to be able to allow other students to easily upload water quality information from a smartphone.

Huff faced many challenges including problems trying to be creative within the limitations of the website editor. However, she was able to work with other students to come up with solutions to the problems that arose.

Huff found that she enjoyed working with students and professors from a different discipline, and that it opened her up to different ways of looking at situations and showed her solutions to problems that she would not thought of on her own. Huff believes that this opportunity was extremely beneficial to her educational experience.

"Previous student participants on the ALLARM team have been chemistry and environmental majors,” Boylan said. “Rachael's background as a computer science major allowed us to evaluate our website from a new perspective. Her modifications have made the information available on our website easier for non-scientists to understand.”

“It reminded and encouraged me to think from many perspectives to be able to fully understand a concept,” said Huff. “This experience showed me that there are many ways to do one thing. That if the first idea fails, to try again since there is always another way to do it.”

Huff is a daughter of Jeffery and Laurel Huff of New Wilmington and a graduate of Wilmington Area High School.

Contact Boylan at 724-946-6293 or email for additional information.