When David Frankel was 12 years old, he watched his first computer science tutorial and instantly took to coding and web development. Within a few years, he had built a scheduling app for the college counselors at his Washington, D.C., high school, Sidwell Friends (Yes, Frankel was classmate to Sasha and Malia Obama) and created the video game Wizard Pong (Play on your Xbox, it’s open source.)
Another pivotal moment occurred in middle school. Frankel’s mom suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash, one that left her unable to look at electronic devices. Frankel assumed the role of technology tutor, showing her how to use the VoiceOver screen reader app and other tools that would allow her to access the internet.
Those experiences led Frankel to Washington University in St. Louis, where he has studied ways to use computer science to advance social good.
“When you put so much pressure on technology to solve society’s issues, you ignore the way that technology is not accessible to everyone,” Frankel said. “Millions of Americans don’t even have broadband. Others cannot access technology because of the costs. Other people have disabilities that act as barriers to access. These obstacles are more than an inconvenience; they are isolating and cause real harm.”
On Saturday, Dec. 11, Frankel will be among the 360 Washington University students participating in the recognition ceremony for December degree candidates at the Athletic Complex. He is set to graduate with degrees in computer science from the McKelvey School of Engineering and in women, gender and sexuality studies from Arts & Sciences. It’s an unusual combination of majors, but why should it be, asked Frankel, who has devoted as much time to student theater and LGBT advocacy as hackathons and gaming.
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