Archive for the 'student' Category

Embrace and Me: A Follow-Up to ‘Notes “Product Development for the Other 90%”’

By guest author: Hamsika Chandrasekar

I read Bina’s Notes on “Product Development for the Other 90%” and felt a spark of interest when I came across her description of Embrace, a social enterprise that has developed an innovative, low-cost infant warmer to help keep low-birth-weight and premature infants warm. Thanks to the combined support of the MIT Public Service Center, Baker Foundation, and Kelly-Douglas Fund, I was able to spend the last month in India, working to launch Embrace’s infant warmer at the Shamlaji Tribal Hospital in Gujarat.

This hospital is located in the small village of Shamlaji, about two hours outside Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city. It is managed by a husband and wife doctor team, Drs. Haren Joshi and Pratima Tolat, who ensure that the free treatment provided at Shamlaji Tribal Hospital is of high quality. Working with Embrace, I selected Shamlaji Tribal Hospital for my service project due to its focus on rural healthcare and its high numbers of low birth weight infants. When I arrived at the hospital, I found two packages, both marked ‘most urgent,’ waiting for me in the hospital office. I opened one quickly and happily held up its contents: the Embrace infant warmer. Looking back now, I still remember that sense of excitement and purpose I felt when I unwrapped the device. I couldn’t believe that after all the emails, the training sessions, the conference calls, and the planning, I was finally at Shamlaji Tribal Hospital, working with an organization I had heard about through a TedTalk and immediately loved.

My first day, unwrapping an Embrace infant warmer

I spent nearly three weeks in Gujarat, conversing with the doctors and nurses and showing them how to operate the infant warmer.

During my time there, nine infants benefited from the Embrace product, absorbing the warmer’s heat and gaining weight during their hospital stay. Together, the nurses and I monitored these babies and collected data on each infant. I was happy to see that the nurses quickly became comfortable with the Embrace product, taking it out whenever a newborn weighed between 1.5 kg and 2.5 kg, the recommended weight range for product use.

A (2.5 kg) infant sleeping peacefully in the Embrace infant warmer

The biggest challenge for me was the language barrier: I spoke no Gujarati and very little Hindi, the two most prominent languages in the region. I worked with the hospital staff via an interpreter, pausing at the end of each sentence and allowing her to translate what I had said. With her help, I also explored some of the other healthcare needs in the area, meeting with the head of Shamlaji Village and traveling out to the Himmatnagar Civil Hospital, to which many patients from Shamlaji Tribal Hospital are referred.

For me, this project served not only as an opportunity to perform hands-on service work but also as a reminder of the realities in impoverished regions and the challenges involved in the improvement of rural healthcare. For every baby born in Shamlaji Tribal Hospital, many more are born at home, never receiving proper care and often dying due to preventable reasons. Parents, desperate to have kids that survive past infancy, pay little attention to established family planning methods. Poor education makes it difficult for villagers to comprehend the dangers associated with at-home deliveries and improper antenatal care. Throughout my time in Gujarat, I was reminded of how much more I – and for that matter, anyone in the world – could do to help.

Hamsika Chandrasekar is currently a junior at MIT and a previous PSC expedition grant recipient. She is double majoring in Computational Biology (Course 6-7) and Neuroscience (Course 9), hopes to enroll in medical school following her undergraduate years, and ultimately wants to pursue a career in global health. 

Ideas: Unleashing Creativity through Competitions

Dr Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Global Community Initiatives at Microsoft (and recent interviewee of our own Sneha Kannan!) has some insights into student innovation, development, and social change in today’s Huffington Post!

On May 2 as part of MIT’s 150 year anniversary celebrations I will be speaking to students who have entered the MIT IDEAS Competition and Global Challenge — which support innovation and entrepreneurship as a public service. This year more than 80 teams have entered ideas that address barriers to well-being in communities in 24 countries. 46 of them have qualified to enter final proposals.

What is unique about this is that the competition is sparking collaboration among students at MIT and the worldwide MIT alumni network, as well as communities around the world. Opening up the participation to the larger community is interesting and an innovative way for a university to engage a much larger audience. Over the last decade we’ve seen more and more universities and companies launching competitions to develop ‘ideas’ to solve some of the most intractable social problems that we face.

Read the full article here.

Pitch Kitchen at MIT

AQUA PitchThere is a growing ecology of resources at MIT that support student ventures – from grounded ideation in programs like D-Lab to launch mechanisms like the $100k business plan competition. The idea behind Pitch Kitchen is to create an informal environment where students can trial their venture pitches in from of a mixed audience – representatives across these resources – and receive helpful feedback that sets them up for success down the road.

We had our first Pitch Kitchen in February 16. Peter Kang of Team AQUA presented the idea and business model for his project – an online game that is one part education tool and another part charity platform. In the room were representatives from $100k Emerging Markets Track, the Entrepreneurship Center, a communications expert from CSAIL, and yours truly from IDEAS/GC.

Kudos to Peter for his stamina – after presenting his 8-minute pitch he endured nearly a solid hour of intense questioning from panelists – all with the intent of helping Peter and team AQUA sharpen their message around a few key areas:

  • Community connection and impact
  • Transparency and accountability in income and expenditures
  • Representing communities without exploiting ie “gamifying” communities
  • Business and sustainability model
  • Translation of online income into on-the-ground impact

Interested in experiencing the crucible? Join us for the next Pitch Kitchen on Wednesday, 3/16 from 5:00-7:00pm in 4-145. Questions? Email lhtorres at mit dot edu.

Farmhack@MIT

Hey there’s a great event coming up at MIT in early March. Its called Farmhack, and the purpose is to bring together New England small-scale farmers and MIT engineers to identify projects for collaboration. There seems to be a consensus that the equipment available is costly, or simply does not respond well to the needs, constraints, and conditions of America’s small acreage farmers. Some of the areas that have come up include seeding technologies, soil monitoring systems, lifestock monitoring systems, irrigation systems. And more! So, if you are a New England farmer or an MIT engineer interested in using small-scale farms as laboratories for innovation, join us! Here are the details.

Farmers -

Do you come away from visits to other farms inspired by a tool or system that you just saw?  Have you invented things on your farm?  Can you describe some challenges on your farm that a team of farmers and engineers might be able to address with a new tool?


Engineers and Designers -

Do you have technical skills that you want to apply to the real world in real time? Are you interested in a direct relationship with the solutions our society needs? Have you considered applying your skill-set to sustainable agriculture?

Continue reading ‘Farmhack@MIT’

And the winner is…

Congratulations to IDEAS 2010 team Sanergy for your winning entry into the IDEAS and Global Challenge video pitch contest! Judges voted Sanergy’s pitch the best for the clear connection between your team’s accomplishment and the resources offered through IDEAS and the Global Challenge. Most importantly, the video did a wonderful job emphasizing a multidisciplinary team drawn from across the MIT community and a deep connection to community and MIT resources on the ground, like FabLab. Here’s the vid:

Sanergy from Ani Vallabhaneni on Vimeo.

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Thanks so much to all of the teams that entered a video into the pitch contest – the range of projects represented is amazing, and I hope that through the MIT Public Service Center we’ll continue to find ways to support your work. View all of the entries here.

At the Generator Dinner.

Last Wednesday we launched this year’s IDEAS Competition and the Global Challenge with a stellar gathering at the Generator Dinner here on campus. Over 100 people attended — students, alums, supporters, and community partners.

The conversation began with a panel on international development organized by our office mate Alison Hynd and Amy Smith with MIT’s D-Lab. Five organizations spoke on what they work towards on a daily basis and what are the key gaps that could benefit from attention and innovation of students. The five organizations:

Lars was live tweeting and caught the scope of challenges presented there.

Continue reading ‘At the Generator Dinner.’

A Shoutout to BLISS from Hillary Clinton (Crossposted)

Exciting news from one of our 2009 IDEAS winners, Saba Gul of Business and Life Skills School (BLISS). Cross posted from her blog here.

Some 200 diplomats, entrepreneurs, imams, popular media figures, and comedians joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in breaking the fast on September 7th, 2010 at the Department of State in Washington, D.C.  What made this grand event different from last year’s was the inclusion of 70 young Muslims from across the country that the Department identified as “some of the best and innovative Muslim leaders under the age of 30″.

To be hand-picked as one of these 70 change-makers to represent my work with BLISS was a true honor. But to be mentioned in Hillary Clinton’s speech (full texthere and video here) as one of the young people “who had already accomplished extraordinary things” by starting “a program to keep Pakistani girls from dropping out of school” was exhilarating!

Read more…

Science, Adventure, and Service

The Guardian UK has a delightful article that describes the confluence of history, science, and adventure that turns on the story of Darwin, the redesign of the HMS Beagle, and NASA scientists today – and ways they inspire modern K-12 education. At the heart of the article is a wonderful quote, that “Inspiration, then, fuelled by adventure, was the trigger for Darwin’s lifelong commitment to science. Over the past few years the Beagle Project team has worked to bring the adventure of science back into focus.”

I think this affinity for adventure and discovery among students is a big part of what makes public service so attractive at MIT – its the opportunity for students to apply their problem-solving skills in very different and unfamiliar contexts that stretch their learning. This is exciting, and it’s also problematic, and goes to the heart of a robust debate that Bruce Nussbaum kicked off a few months back on design and the new “imperialism.” When the HMS Beagle – a very adept ten gun sloop of war of the British Navy – set out on its historic voyage nearly 180 years ago, Britain was at the apex of its colonial expansion, and the voyage marked a projection of power far more than it did a scientific endeavor.

Continue reading ‘Science, Adventure, and Service’

Deadline Extended to 10/15! Enter the MIT Global Challenge Video Pitch Contest

Deadline extended! What’s are you doing to change the world? How can resources like the IDEAS Competition and MIT Global Challenge help?

Share your story in the Global Challenge Video Pitch Competition and be eligible to win $1500.

The contest is open to anyone, but teams must involve MIT students. The winning entry will receive $1500 and will be featured at the October 23 Alumni Leadership Conference launch of the MIT Global Challenge.

We’re launching the MIT Global Challenge to connect and reward teams of innovators and entrepreneurs that are tackling barriers to well-being through invention. We need the world-changing students who benefit from opportunities like IDEAS and the MIT Global Challenge to help us spread the word!

We want to tap student passion to make the world a better place by asking you to make a case for why the MIT community worldwide should care about the Global Challenge. To be successful we’ll need their support to fund awards, underwrite challenges, and support student projects as mentors, volunteers, and local promoters of the Global Challenge. Download contest details [word.doc].

Continue reading ‘Deadline Extended to 10/15! Enter the MIT Global Challenge Video Pitch Contest’

Meet IDEAS10 Winners!

Thanks to summer intern Stephen Kaliski for this brisk introduction to some of the people and ideas behind this year’s winning IDEAS teams. Kudos all!

MIT IDEAS Participants from MIT Global Challenge on Vimeo.