Monthly Archive for September, 2010

PerfectSight, NETRA Shares CNN Spotlight with President Obama

Congratulations to 2010 IDEAS winner NETRA aka Perfect Sight who recently received great coverage by CNN’s Ali Veishi of the Big I. Ramesh Raskar of the MIT Media Lab was on hand to answer questions about the technology during an engaging Q&A and show and tell session. Complete with a special cut to live coverage of President Obama signing of the Small Business Act.

Scot Frank, Sol Source Earn Big for Green Work

Congratulations to alum Scot Frank, who’s solar concentrator just snagged €500,000 in the Netherland’s Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. From the press release:

AMSTERDAM, 23 September 2010 – Scot Frank has won the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2010 for the affordable portable solar concentrator SolSource. His Royal Highness Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, the honorary jury chair, announced the American as the recipient of the €500,000 grand prize.

“This is fantastic,” Frank said. “We’ve been working with target users in China for five years. We’ll use this money to set up our Chinese manufacturing, marketing and distribution base.”

The SolSource is a light, foldable device that harnesses the sun’s energy to cook, generate heat and light, and charge mobile phones. It eliminates indoor air pollution from dung- and wood-burning ovens. SolSource also saves women hours each day by removing the need to collect fuel. The device, to be produced from local materials in its target markets and sold for €10, will be a boon in developing countries.

Read the complete announcement here.

MIT’s Young Innovators Shine at USAID, UN Science and Tech Fair


It was Standing Room Only at the USAID-UN Science and Technology Fair September 22, 2010 in New York City.

Four technologies developed by IDEAS-winning teams were presented, along with several other technologies developed through D-Lab classes, at a well attended Science and Technology Fair hosted by USAID and the New York Academy of Sciences September 22 in New York.

Guests – including UN delegates, government leaders, foundation representatives, and NGO leaders – were welcomed by New York Academy of Sciences president Ellis Rubinstein and the science and technology innovation showcase was opened with an inspiring talk by USAID Administrator Raj Shah.

In addition to table-top displays, invited presenters had the opportunity to send up one-minute pitches to the gathering, and MITs young innovators completely rocked. It was clear that the Institute that helped put a man on the moon cares as much about the global development crisis today as it did about America’s space leadership in the 1960′s.

Among the teams present were Green Grease (Angela Hojnacki), Komera (Amrita Saigal and Kate Smyth), Lebone (Stephen Lwendo), and Leveraged Freedom Chair (Mario Bollini). The five D-Lab teams present were Bicilavadora, Global Cycle Solutions, Leveraged Freedom Wheelchair, Solar Autoclave, and Spiral Pine Needle Stove. Each team was selected for its demonstration of the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship USAID would like to put at the center of its development strategy.

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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.

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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].

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Helping Communities Respond to a Crisis: Konbit

We all remember the devastation of the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year MIT mobilized its resources to respond to the disaster and communicate the challenges associated with the earthquake. MIT students Aaron Zinman and Greg Elliott responded by creating a way for communities to rebuild themselves after a crisis by indexing the skillsets of local residents, allowing NGOs to find and employ them. That idea became known as Konbit, winner of an IDEAS2010 award. We asked Aaron and Greg a few questions about Konbit’s progress:

It has been nearly four months since we saw you at the IDEAS competition. How have you used this summer to propel Konbit forward?

We have been beta testing Konbit with a community center in Miami. That has gone well, and we are shipping our servers to Haiti now.

You planned on launching Konbit this summer. Have you found NGOs and Haitians eager to use Konbit? What have been the challenges, successes and effects of Konbit so far?

To connect with NGOs is a bit of chicken & egg. They want to meet with us once we’re launched, but we want to have jobs for people when they call in. We have enlisted one so far, but essentially need to get further on the ground before we can get the jobs.

Having worked out the agreement we did with Digicel is probably our biggest win, in addition to the support of the wonderful center in Miami (Konbit for Haiti is the name). They have various connections in Haiti and will get Bob Lemoine, a well known radio announcer, to re-record our voice prompts for us. This will allow a trusted voice to answer the phone. Prof. Michel DeGraff previously translated and recorded the prompts, which have done well in our beta tests, but we constantly get feedback about trust issues in Haiti. This has been suggested as a possible way to help mitigate this issue.

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