Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship (ADE)

A photo of a large group of people
Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship (ADE)

ADE is a senior capstone program and joint venture with Babson College, where seniors collaborate with communities around the world to address challenges of poverty. ADE is an international, experiential social entrepreneurship and design course that aims to create solutions with people and democratize opportunity.

Olin students’ one-of-a-kind engineering education informs the development of life-changing technologies and social ventures in developing and underserved areas. With community partners, students co-create and test new products and ventures with the goal to reduce burden, expand education, improve health, and generate income.

Students identify real problems, then evaluate and test possible solutions. This mixing of design and entrepreneurship skills allows them to see how combining technology and business models can impact a social venture’s outcome. Cross-functional teams deploy modest amounts of seed capital to identify, develop, and scale opportunities regionally. Teams advance ventures by iteratively engaging with stakeholders in context, prototyping designs, and testing assumptions.

Now in ADE’s tenth year, students have benefited from immersive trips to meet collaborators in a range of communities, including Ghana, India, Zambia, Morocco, Mississippi, or closer to campus in Massachusetts. Many ADE projects are ongoing which allows for deep connections and investment.

ADE is now an anchor program in the Weissman Foundry, a new maker space on Babson’s campus right on the edge of Olin’s, with a mandate to engage across Babson, Olin, and Wellesley (BOW) to produce maximum collaboration and impact.

A photo of Ben Linder standing in front of a classroom

Engineering can be abstract

and in ADE they come face-to-face with people in need, and as a consequence what they’re doing and why becomes concrete and real. ADE is an experience that has profoundly impacted many students’ lives, and a good number of them revise their career goals as a result. They walk away with a new sense of who they are and what their role could be in society."

Benjamin Linder, Ph.D.

professor of Design and Mechanical Engineering and ADE Program Co-Director


ADE Project Briefs

Throughout a decade of ADE, Babson, Olin, and Wellesley students have had a positive impact with a wide range of partners in multiple communities around the world. Projects focus on challenges including air quality, community development, child education, food processing, global health, and rights and privacy, new to the program in 2020.

2020 project tracks and goals

  • AIR QUALITY – Reduce the burden of air pollution in near-source communities by building awareness and capacity for agency. Visit the Air Partners website.
  • COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT – Work with community members to catalyze a cycle of success through youth-focused learning spaces promoting five key research-based developmental outcomes: connection, confidence, competence, character and contribution.
    • Read more about the Shifting Rhythms project below.
    • Visit the Shifting Rhythms website.
  • FOOD PROCESSING – Creating mini post-harvest processing machines accessible to women who produce value-added foods to reduce their burden and grow their small businesses.
  • GLOBAL HEALTH - Increasing early access to hearing screening to enhance immediate well-being of children and improve their overall life outcomes. Watch the Affordable Hearing Screener video. 
  • RIGHTS AND PRIVACY - Confronting the deep inequalities produced by the U.S. criminal justice system through innovative applications of software and data analysis.

Past Teams

  • ADE MASSACHUSETTS addressed food insecurity through low cost climate control for plant propagation.
  • ADE MOROCCO created a telecommunications solution for illiterate Moroccans
  • ADE INDIA worked in Kolkata on a water chlorination project (Zimba) and a on a rickshaw project in the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur.
  • ADE Global Health previously worked on the Otter newborn warmer, a technology design for under-resourced hospitals to prevent newborn hypothermia. This technology has been transferred to non-profit Design that Matters for further development. Read the travel blog posts to learn more about this effort.

Meet the ADE Teaching Team