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iSTEP (innovative Student Technology ExPerience) is a unique internship program that provides Carnegie Mellon University students with the opportunity to conduct technology research projects in developing communities. Started in 2009 by the TechBridgeWorld research group, iSTEP is a rigorous and competitive 10-week internship program that requires the involvement of students with high levels of dedication, team work, cross-cultural adaptability, initiative and academic achievement.

Through iSTEP, students gain real-world experience in applying their knowledge and skills for creative problem-solving in unfamiliar settings. Furthermore, iSTEP interns benefit from a well-structured and unique experience that better prepares them for succeeding in an increasingly global economy. Students who have participated in iSTEP in past years have exhibited tremendous personal and professional growth as a result of their experiences conducting field research in developing community settings.

TechBridgeWorld carefully selects multidisciplinary teams of CMU students. Teams are typically comprised of a mix of undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni from various departments at CMU. They are set up to work in a globally-distributed team over the summer with some team members working with TechBridgeWorld faculty and staff from the Pittsburgh campus while other members are living and working at the overseas partner location.

Technology field work in developing communities can be challenging and also rewarding. The TechBridgeWorld team, comprised of CMU faculty and staff, has many years of experience working in this area and will supervise, provide guidance, and offer advice to iSTEP interns throughout their experience. iSTEP interns work as apprentices to TechBridgeWorld team members and will be responsible for completing a specified set of tasks in collaboration with the combined iSTEP and TechBridgeWorld team. Each iSTEP intern will be assigned to a supervisor from the TechBridgeWorld team to whom they will be accountable during the internship.

Together with TechBridgeWorld, the iSTEP interns works on technology research projects for underserved communities in collaboration with local partners. They contribute technical expertise by inventing new tools and customizing existing technology. Project work from the internship will result in papers co-authored by iSTEP interns to be submitted to upcoming ICTD (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) and other relevant conferences for publication.

The iSTEP internship is designed with the following educational objectives for students:

  • Develop knowledge and experience in conducting field research
    • Broader view of the applications of technology and potential impact on society
    • Challenges of and experiences working in ICTD
    • Real-world problem solving
  • Be able to work effectively and efficiently as a team
    • Coordination of tasks while globally distributed
    • Collaboration across disciplines and varied skill sets
    • Improved understanding of how to work cross-culturally
  • Learn to value the needs and potential of underserved communities around the world
  • Enhance written and oral communication skills
  • Realize capability to develop a tool that will be sustained in the future
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