Just Enough Busy

Hey! Here's what I'm up to this semester. Man, it's good to be a last-semester senior. It's a crazy mix of doing just enough and just doing things I'm really stoked about. That is, things I'm stoked about and the last couple requirements that I kept putting off in favor of more exciting activities at the time. But now I'm pretty excited about them. May as well dig on the academic life while it lasts! Here's a lineup of current endeavors and updates about them.

But first, here's a picture from the first two weeks of my last semester.

Friends

Jona '09.5 and Giulia '10 sing and study. "Git ready fer Candidates' Weekend!" he says.

Materials Science: Here's a required course that I never took, and its coming back at just the right time! I'm really enjoying starting a totally new subject that I can learn with the self-awareness and learning habits that I've built up over the years. Professor Jon Stolk is a delight- definitely one of the profs here the most dedicated to educational innovation. That's why 1)his MatSci course is one of the most self-driven, project empowered I've taken and 2)he's using it as a laboratory for an NSF funded research project on self directed learning! Way to go, Stolk! The story of my life in MatSci is all about polymers, since I'm also adding an additional credit of Independant Study research in the science of plastics. I'm specifically doing a simple study to see how the mechanical properties of ABS change after successive 'recycling' processes. By the end, I should know some solid basics about polymer science! I've already learned how to use an injection molder, and a slew of MatSci lab equipment.

Plastic!

Here's some injection molded ABS that I broke in a tensile test in the Instron Universal Tester.

SCOPE: My senior consulting project is still alive and kicking, to say the least. Staring down the barrel to final deliverables to our sponsor, my team of 5 seniors + Babson MBA are set to sprint to the finish to come up with both innovative and experimentally valid solutions. If anything, my SCOPE experience has been about coping with massive ambiguity (i.e. wide open possibilities) and nailing them down into something that can be defined and completed. Settling in to the team and the project has made my job as Project Manager much more intuitive and accurate. Wish I could say more about it...

Entrepreneurship Capstone: The end to any good E! concentration is the seminar E! Capstone, or E!Cap as we say in the lingo. Basically, it's wide open dare to do something entrepreneurial. So a few of us from last semester's Product Design and Development team (including RISD, Babson, and Olin) are evaluating the commercial potential of the product we invented. It's a change from the last venture I attempted, which was fascinating by virtue of its bigness. This one seems well bounded: understand the value in the product by verifying with the end users, and figure out how to get it to market. If these seem to pay off, we'll be well situated to infuse some capital and give it a shot. It's a chance to get back in the Foundry, Olin's student business incubator. Check out the Foundry website to hear about its coolness.

I'm getting ready to submit a poster to the National Academy of Engineering's summit on its Grand Challenges for engineering. Of course, I'm interested in the "Energy/Environment" category. The Summit is coming up on the 1st of March, and Olin, having helped organize the summit, is excited enough to be represented that they're paying to send me and a bunch of other students. Righteous! My poster is going to finally synthesize the disparate work completed over more than a year by some 6 students concerning renewable electricity from waste vegetable oil. Besides writing a business plan for a company called Bluestem Energy based on the concept, a few of my peers and I did scholarly research projects on some dimensions of this topic. It turns out we had never really compared notes on the results until now. I've got a good feeling that if the $500 prize for best poster doesn't satisfy us, the sense of closure on an exemplary interdisciplinary Olin project will.

I'm also being drawn inexorably into an alternative transportation startup being masterminded by a friend from RISD (again from the PDD course last semester). This venture is not in the "well bounded" category. Rather, it has got so many fascinating elements, you can chew on them for hours and still be bewildered by how much there is to know. This one will look like an intriguing side project this semester as it rears up to look for funding. If it does get the money it deserves, I might have to make some tough choices come this summer. This is just another continuation of Olin's theme of more-opportunities-than-you-know-what-to-do-with. They say it's a good problem to have... and I agree.

Speaking of the summer, "professional development" is somewhat of a significant endeavor of late. For now, that entails surfing my network of contacts and the various green jobs websites of the internets, looking for leads. I'm glad to say there are several promising ones, and the Impact Socially and Environmentally Conscious Career Expo tomorrow. I may be able to laugh/survive in the face of the so-called "bad economy" yet. I'm willing to posit that others will follow my hunch that environmental sustainability is not a luxury, but an advantage in trying times. Value added is value added, and people like me are starting to place our values on the environment.

On that lofty note, good night! It's almost time for intramural volleyball.

What are you doing to prepare for Candidate's Weekend?

Cheers,

Bennett

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