Meals-on-Wheels Android App; An Exploration of Public Engagement and its Impact on Fighting Environmental Injustice

Luk, Kevin, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Ferguson, Sean, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Graham, Daniel, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

The mainstream environmental movement that started in the 1950s and 1960s exposed to
the public the dangers of environmental degradation, leading to the introduction of the concept of
environmental injustice. This concept explores how disadvantaged and marginalized populations
are being unfairly impacted by environmental problems. Affected groups are forced to work by
themselves in order to enact the change that is needed in order to solve the problems they are
facing. The following technical thesis discusses the creation of an Android application that aims
to help the Meals-on-Wheels food distribution program in Charlottesville, Virginia become a
more environmentally friendly company through reducing paper waste. In order to further
analyze environmental issues, the STS thesis discusses the environmental injustices that the
residents of Flint, Michigan experiencing during Flint Water Crisis and how public engagement
affected their fight against the injustices they were experiencing.
The technical thesis discusses the creation of an Android application that allows the
Meals-on-Wheels program to reduce the need for paper in order to conduct their services, as well
as better organize and communicate information. The goal of this project was to help the
program transition their employees to communicate delivery details such as delivery name,
address, and phone number, through smartphone. During the internship, the team was able to
create an application that displayed information of clients for deliverers to see. Problems such as
database integration and unfamiliarity with Android app development resulted in the team not
being to finish the prototype application by the end of the internship. However, this early
prototype app set a good starting point for future developers to continue the work.
The STS thesis explores the use of public engagement during the Flint Water Crisis in
order to convince Flint’s government to investigate the situation and enact change. This thesis
analyzes the forms of public engagement that were used and their differing effects and outcomes.
The engagement between Flint’s public, scientists, government showed the importance of trust in
their interactions. The public needed to trust that researchers were there to help their cause and to
show that their concerns should be taken curiously. However, differing motivations caused
distrust between the parties, leading to residents further losing trust in those that are supposed to
help them. The public’s relationship with the government also became significantly damaged due
to the government’s past failures of helping them. Even as the government attempted to begin
programs to help the crisis, residents still did not trust them. Perspectives also played a major
role in public engagement. Although many individuals and groups wanted to help Flint’s
residents, their perspectives differed in why they wanted to help as well as the ways in which
they helped. Researchers, local grassroot associations, and high-capacity nonprofits all differed
in these aspects, which resulted in differing results

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Environment, Injustice, Environmental Injustice, Flint Water Crisis, Public Engagement, Citizen Science

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Daniel Graham
STS Advisor: Sean Ferguson
Technical Team Members: Kevin Luk

Issued Date: