Ronald McDonald House Charities, Portland and Bangor, Maine

More than 300 Volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House in Portland Maine are scheduled into four 3-hour calendar shifts each day to staff the front desk, clean rooms, and provide families with support to help make their lives easier while their children are being treated in nearby hospitals. Prior to 2008, scheduling volunteers into shifts at the House was done by hand, using a paper calendar and a Rolodex file of names and addresses. The process was error‐prone and cumbersome.

In 2008, a team of four computer science students and an instructor at Bowdoin College worked with the House Manager to create new software to change this. The students built a system called Homebase, a system providing online volunteer and calendar information, and a user interface that allows the House Manager to schedule volunteers into shifts with a simple online action. By streamlining these tedious administrative activities, the Homebase system allows volunteers to spend more time serving and supporting families in need.

The original project created in 2008 has been subsequently used as a foundation for several additional classes and projects. Two classes expanded and enhanced the software in 2011 and 2013 for RMH Portland. Another class at a different college revamped and customized Homebase in 2015 for use at the Ronald McDonald House in Providence, RI.

Later in 2015, Homebase was again expanded so that it serves the volunteer scheduling needs of both the RMH in Bangor, ME and the RMH in Portland, ME.

This iterative process directly reflects a basic goal of the Institute: to form partnerships that address long-term mission-critical technical needs by customizing successful open source software that had been developed for a related application elsewhere.

The Development Triad:

  • The Non-Profit: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine required on-line volunteer scheduling support to replace its manual paper-based system.
  • The College: Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine developed the original Homebase application with 4 computer science students and an instructor during the spring 2008 semester.  Other Bowdoin student teams refined and extended Homebase in 2011, 2013, and 2015.
  • The Software Professional: Artopa, Inc., Portland, Maine provides web hosting support, and NPFI provides technical support for bug fixes and feature enhancements.


Instructor/Developer Links: