Students Turn Their Dreams into Social Responsibility Projects (April 7, 2015)

Boğaziçi University students represented Turkey at the 8th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) Summit held in Miami on March 6-8, 2015.   

Clinton Global Initiative University was launched in 2007 by Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, with the aim of bringing together future leaders of the world.  Since 2008, the Initiative has been bringing together students from various countries who are developing social responsibility projects in five focus areas:  Education, Environment and Climate Change, Peace and Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation, and Public Health. At the 2015 Summit, Turkey was represented solely by students from Boğaziçi University. With 4 projects developed by 10 students, Boğaziçi took its place at the Initiative alongside universities such as Stanford, Yale and MIT.

The Boğaziçi team comprised by Mustafa Doğa Doğan from the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department, Adalet Eroğlu from the Political Science and International Relations Department, and Elif Gizem Kain from the Psychology Department participated with their project named BOUNav, which enables visually impaired students to navigate within the campus by audio stimuli. Sevgi Yurttaş andElif Şentürk, students of the Counseling and Psychological Guidance Program of the Educational Sciences Department, and Suat Dönertaş from the Physics Department, presented a social responsibility project focusing on LGBTI individuals in prisons.

Another project that was presented at the Summit meeting was the study on sustainability byÖzgecan Yazar from the Economics Department.  Fatma Merve Gürbüzkol from the Primary Education Department and Hilal Altunay and Özge Gökler from the Pre-School Education Program/Primary Education Department participated with their project focusing on the education of female prison inmates’ children.

We talked to the participants about the projects they developed as part of Boğaziçi University’s Social Responsibility Projects.

Mobile Navigation System for Visually Handicapped Students (BOUNav)

Mustafa Doğa Doğan explained their team’s project to us. “I saw a visually handicapped student trying to enter the dining hall. He had come to the entrance but had difficulty finding the door.  He could not go in without help from someone.  I felt responsible.”

To increase the mobility of their visually handicapped friends and help them become more independent, Doğan and his team first planned to make a pair of eyeglasses that would give information about the surroundings transmitted via a camera.  They applied to B.U.’s GETEM (Visually Impaired Individuals Technology Education Center) to develop their project.

By using Bluetooth Low Energy Technology (BLE) and earphones, the system Doğan’s team developed gives audio information to the individual, describing the buildings and other structures around them.  The individual can also ask for directions to a location. With this project the team aimed to make their friends’ lives easier and improve their access to facilities on campus.  The students are planning to implement their project this year and mentor other students next year. The BOUNav team had the opportunity to present this project at the Summit, where many other projects participated, from social rights for women to producing energy and clean water from ocean waves. 

How does BOUNav work?

All buildings and all doors in the North Campus are marked with wireless beacons.  The BOUNav mobile application connects with these beacons via BLE Technology and identifies the student’s location on campus.  Then the system informs the student of his location by audio prompts such as “You are approaching the library” or “New Hall is 50 meters away at 10 o’clock”.  Moreover, the student himself can give commands like “Take me to the library” or “Where is the bathroom?”  A warning system alerts the student about any hazards in the vicinity like, for example, roadwork or construction.  Beacons placed in such places will warn students by voice and by vibration.   Once the project’s implementation begins, the posters on the panels in classrooms will also be marked, so when the student approaches the panel, he will hear someone read what the poster is about.

LGBTI Project in Prisons (Rainbow Behind the Wall)

Inspired by problems encountered by LGBTI individuals in prison, this project focuses on two different areas:  LGBTI individuals put in the same ward as heterosexual inmates and transsexual prisoners placed in separate wards.  Transsexuals placed in separate wards away from heterosexuals are indeed literally isolated.  The team aims to eliminate prejudices through seminars and to help join transsexual and heterosexual wards.  However, since there are no transsexual wards in Turkish prisons, the target of this part of the project is prisons abroad.  The second pillar of the project concerns the humiliation, alienation, and sexual abuse encountered by LGTBI inmates put in the same ward with heterosexual inmates.  They plan to organize seminars first, and then provide creative drama performances and theater activities to increase participation.

Sevgi Yurttaş from the team participating at CGIU described her impressions:  “The Summit enabled us to comprehend that the issue is more severe and problematic in Turkey than elsewhere.  The participants we came in contact with were shocked at the sexual prejudices and conservatism they heard about, and seeing that made us realize the extent of the prejudice we need to overcome.”

"After we returned from the Summit,” she continued, “a graduate student from Columbia University who also participated in the Summit visited Boğaziçi University.”   The student, who was planning to start his own project involving inmates in New York prisons, visited the Rainbow Behind the Wall team together with a Boğaziçi student working on a similar project.  They exchanged information on their projects.

The Sustainability Project

Özgecan Yazar’s project concerns installing potable water fountains on campus, freeing students from having to pay for drinking water and reducing the use of plastic water bottles significantly, thus contributing to sustainability.

Özgecan shared her impressions of the United States with us:  “It was inspiring to be with students working on creative projects for their communities, professionals who have carried this a step further, and recipients of various prizes.  Even though my project is still a work in progress, seeing the effective solutions others had achieved motivated me to speed up my work and bring the project to life.”