It's Spring Break at Olin, and although I find myself staying in a decidedly non-Spring-like Boston (snow flurries today), I am lucky enough to travel vicariously to warmer, more colorful places: namely India, Ghana, and Greensboro, Alabama. This Spring Break, Olin's new program in "Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship" is taking teams of Olin and Babson students to these three locations to address the well-being of low-income communities through collaborative design of innovative technology-ventures.
Oliners in Ghana, India, & Alabama
March 14, 2011
(Follow the trips on our blog: http://adetravelblog.blogspot.com)
It was almost exactly a year ago when Professor Benjamin Linder sent a draft course description to Ollie Haas ('11) and me, asking for feedback. I remember sitting in my apartment in New Zealand, where I was studying away, feeling my excitement rise and rise as I read the proposal: an international, multi-campus course open to engineering and business undergrads... seeking to alleviate poverty through the creation of innovative, affordable technologies and the business ventures that make those viable... directly engaging with low-income and resource-poor communities in the U.S. and abroad over the 1-2 years it will take to implement these ventures... aiming to offer the first course in Spring 2011 with 20 Olin and Babson students...
Ollie and I replied within hours of receiving the email: This sounds totally unreasonable and incredibly exciting. How can we be involved?!! Our discussions throughout the summer resulted in the three of us (Ben, Ollie, and me) traveling to Alabama and Morocco last fall, with Ben somehow managing to also squeeze in trips to India and Ghana as his year on sabbatical rushed to a close. Through these visits, we built community and university partnerships and made plans for engaging with them the following semester. We had long conversations over fried catfish in Alabama and between sips of sweet minty-green tea in Morocco, exploring all manner of philosophical and logistical questions pertinent to the formation of such a program. And with the support of Babson Professor Erik Noyes, visiting Olin research scientist Mihir Ravel, and many other key people at Olin and Babson, all the pieces came together in time for the first offering this spring.
The entire experience of developing and now taking Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship (ADE) has been one of the most impactful of my Olin career: working with amazing people at Olin and around the world passionate about affecting positive change, contributing to all levels of developing an international program, and seeing a dream become a reality with the support of the Olin community.
Apart from keeping in touch with the ADE teams from afar, my own Spring Break will be spent working on a few independent projects, attending StartingBloc in Boston, and getting my mind around the fact that I will be graduating in a few short months' time!