Student designs White House site

Timothy Kim knew he wanted to work with computers from the moment he got his hands on one in the fourth grade.

What the graduate student in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences did not expect was that he would develop software for the White House before finishing graduate school.

As an intern in the Office of Management and Budget, a department within the Executive Office of the President, Kim helped create a program that allows budget analysts as well as the general public to review how much money the government spends on information technology programs and identify which programs are flagged for poor performance. VUE-IT, or Visualization to Understand Expenditures in Information Technology, was launched late last month to help the OMB operate more efficiently and add transparency to the federal government.

“Tim established a new design for the site that allowed users to drill down from summary data to increasingly detailed levels. This design really captured the original vision for the site,” said Robert Hill, chief of systems development and operations at the Bureau of Economic Analysis. “Tim also incorporated new approaches to data access and processing that optimized the performance of the site.”

Kim’s use of technology to solve problems dates back to the 1990s when he was in high school. He said he created a Web site where students could share information about homework assignments, like a primordial version of Blackboard – but it never caught on.

“It was before it’s time,” Kim said.

But he was driven to continue working with computer software.

“The idea that you’re solving a problem is really motivating.”

Kim received a bachelor’s degree in computer science at GW, and he is now finishing up his masters in computer science. While working as the Webmaster for the department of computer science last semester, a department chair approached him about applying for a summer internship at the White House.

He applied, got the job and soon found himself working for E-Gov, a department in the OMB dedicated to improving the way government works through technology.

“This serves as role model for other students and illustrates how the learning experiences that our students have at GW enable them to make a big difference and accomplish things of great impact and far-reaching effect,” said Abdou Youssef, chair of the computer science department.

Kim spent the first few weeks of his internship doing general research for a long-term project, but said he wanted to do something more hands-on.

“It was pretty boring for the first two weeks,” he said.

Kim said he noticed that it was difficult for budget managers to share data quickly and wondered what he could do to make the process more efficient. Given the opportunity to explore solutions with another intern, Kim’s creativity took off.

“There wasn’t a clear direction. We had creative freedom to take it where we wanted it,” he said. “I was thankful I wasn’t doing grunt work.”

He worked for two months on a Web application that compiled information technology budget data for every department in the federal government and made it organized and easily available for internal use at the White House. Information that once could have taken hours to find was now available in a few clicks of a mouse.

He said he was thankful to get the chance to utilize the skills he has taught himself and has learned at GW.

“The most interesting part about creating software is that it creates a solution to a problem,” he said. “I feel like I’ve created a solution that helps the way government works.”

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