Aaron Strauss took a semester off from MIT in 2000 to work as a polling analyst for Al Gore’s presidential campaign.

After the 2000 election –– and all its chaos –– Strauss says, “I felt so disillusioned with the American voting system. I wished I could do something to help.”

When he returned to MIT the next semester, Strauss heard that MIT and Caltech were teaming up to develop a more reliable U.S. voting machine. He grabbed the phone and called Political Science Prof. Stephen Ansolabehere to ask if he could participate in the project as a UROP student.

The next thing Strauss knew he was part of the team of computer scientists, mechanical engineers, political scientists, and cognitive scientists, all working to develop an affordable, easy-to-use, secure, voting machine.

“I had just came back from the Gore experience, and already I had an opportunity to affect change. I was programming simulations and prototypes of how a new voting system would look. Having the opportunity to work on this, I felt so empowered.”

A native of Annandale, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., Strauss long followed politics and made it his major. Now earning a degree in computer science and political science, he hopes one day to use his computer background to organize data to tackle tough problems, like the Federal budget.

“It was a huge step to pull together a dedicated team to implement a new voting system,” he says. “My first two years at MIT, I barely got to know any professors at all. But this project taught me that there are communities of students and scholars who have a lot to learn from each other, and who can help each other in enormous ways. UROP has created a bridge between us, and it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”