Students Making a Difference with NonProfits - by Emily Mamula '15

Since Winter Break, teams from Olin's Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship class have been traveling to places all over the world in order to learn about and better help their users.

What is ADE?

Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship, or ADE, is one of the design depths offered at Olin. Students work in teams with faculty advisors to help nonprofits all over the world with their projects by applying the design skills we learn here as early as our freshman year. Every semester, new students take the class and pick up where the last team left off, creating their own team dynamic and goal, to work in Alabama, India, and other locations, such as Ghana and Morocco. At some point during their time working on these projects, the students travel to their locale in order to better interact with and create for their nonprofits and the people they serve.

The class has become such a big project, in fact, that some students are now able to substitute the typical Olin SCOPE (Senior Capstone Program in Engineering) project with an ADE-related venture!



From right to left: Lillian Tseng (Olin '13), Martika Jenkins (Babson), Victoria Tabi (Babson), Professor Erik Noyes (Babson), Pam Dorr (Director of HERObike), and Stanley He (Babson).

Team Alabama, comprised of a mix of Olin and Babson students with faculty advisor Erik Noyes, traveled to Greensboro, Alabama for four days in March in order to learn more about HERObike, a nonprofit that uses locally grown bamboo to build their bikes. The group aims to utilize this venture to employ at-risk youth and other Greensboro residents, as well as providing many different skills and training programs. When Team Alabama met with HERObike's director, they learned just how good the company was at achieving this goal, but that it was stalled only by a lack of capital as a result of local banks refusing to loan any more money.


Lindsey Tarr (Babson) on one of HERObike's bamboo bikes.
To learn more about HERObike (or maybe even donate or purchase a bike!), visit their website.

So the team headed home with a revised mission: HERObike didn't need any help doing what it was already doing so well, but it needed a better way to fund the endeavor. The goal for their semester then became to help the organization make money through bike-related ventures. They brainstormed places where HERObike's eco-friendly product would be most attractive and what the business could produce as a side project.

By doing a market analysis of the bike share industry and retail market, the students determined that advertising for HERObike's product would be best targeted toward college bike share programs and eco-friendly hotels, institutions whose programs are centered on the concept of being "green" and would appreciate the design of the bikes. They also recommended that the company increase its social media presence as a method of free advertising to those target segments.

The final piece to their project was to focus on a way that HERObike could generate additional revenue at a low cost to the group. To achieve this, the team developed the idea for, and created a prototype, of a customizable frame bag for the casual, recreational cyclist. This piece of the project not only offered a possibility for more capital, but also had the potential to create three part-time jobs for HERObike to fill with the youth, single mothers, retirees, etc. it typically hired in order to help improve the community. HERObike requested that the prototype be express mailed on the day of the students' presentations, as the directors were so excited to start working with designers to get production underway. The company plans to start to produce and sell the bags this summer, and report on the results to the next Team Alabama in the fall.



Team India had a head start on their travels. Members of the team, with their faculty advisor Rakesh Pandey, traveled to India over Winter Break between the Fall 2011 semester and this last Spring. The whole gang is back in India as you read this, continuing to work to create a better rickshaw.

If you don't know what a rickshaw is, they're the passenger bikes with a bench seat that many international cities have adopted as an alternative to a taxi.

india1.jpgRebecca Leung and John "Rosy" Rosenwinkel (both Olin '12) testing prototypes of their new rickshaw design.

The team aims to produce a better rickshaw for the "pullers" who man them, as this is often their main source of income and the easier the bikes are the use, the more rides can be given and money can be made. They've gone through the process of designing, building, and even testing these designs, all while exploring and soaking up Indian culture.

To read more about the long plane flights, Indian food, losing the Olin challenge, and their work, visit the Team India blog, which will continue to be updated through the rest of their trip.





Posted in: A Broader World View, Learning about Design, Making a Difference