Alumni Profile

Computer Science Alum Finds Rewarding Work Bringing Computers to African Children

John Parks MS'88

Cornell computer science alumnus John Parks, MS’88, has found joy and fulfillment in his life and work through bringing computers to children in Africa. Facing health scares and a need for a significant change in his work life as a software engineer at Intel, John joined a team of engineers through the Intel Education Service Corps to set up a computer lab in Zambia – a significant challenge because of the lack of electricity, water, mobile connection or wi-fi.

“Intel is changing lives with this program,” says John, who has been to Africa three times with the Service Corps, which takes the top six Intel employees who apply and deploys them every six months for service projects. John’s team worked with World Vision Zambia to build a solar powered computer lab and train students and teachers to use the computers. Because of the lack of internet, the computers were loaded with eGranary, an off-line digital library containing over 30,000 documents including Wikipedia and Khan Academy educational videos.

“I studied computer science at Cornell back in the pre-internet, pre-Windows, pre-Google, pre-smartphone days when CS was mostly mathematical. I studied computational complexity, concurrent and distributed algorithms, numerical analysis, operating system design -- pretty much ALL of the mathematical underpinnings of computer science,” said John. “Cornell gave me the best computer science foundation possible.  It taught me how to think critically about computers and software. I was so happy to apply this background to my work with Intel Education Service Corps.”