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D-Lab and MIT IDEAS Global Challenge: Lessons in Mentoring, Transdisciplinarity and Real World Engineering for Sustainable Development

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New Developments in Engineering Education for Sustainable Development

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Abstract

This paper reflects on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s D-Lab and IDEAS Global Challenge pedagogy over the past 14 years (2002–2015). The MIT IDEAS Global Challenge, a program of the MIT Public Service Center, is an annual invention and entrepreneurship competition that awards up to $10,000 per MIT team for innovations and service projects that positively impact underserved communities. IDEAS student teams work with a community partner on projects that are designed to improve the quality of life globally. Since its founding in 2002, IDEAS has awarded more than $600,000 to 132 teams. D-Lab Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Environmental Innovations for the Common Good (D-Lab WASH + ENV) is a MIT course offered for the past 10 years within a curriculum of over 20 D-Lab classes in international development. This author has mentored several hundred student teams that have entered the IDEAS Global Challenge, mostly through this course D-Lab WASH + ENV, including 26 winning teams. Eighty-one percent of these IDEAS winning teams have been led by women students. This is a model of the kind of program that can bring gender parity to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines while nurturing the “whole student.” In common with the wider family of D-Lab courses, the D-Lab-WASH + ENV course is structured around experiential learning and real-world engineering. This paper links the Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) conference themes with the D-Lab/IDEAS pedagogy in terms of key concepts: mentoring, transdisciplinarity and real world engineering. It ends with challenges and recommendations.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The Gender Parity Index (GPI) is a socioeconomic index usually designed to measure the relative access to education of males and females. In its simplest form, it is calculated as the quotient of the number of females by the number of males enrolled in a given stage of education (primary, secondary, etc.). It is used by international organizations, particularly in measuring the progress of developing countries. The Institute for Statistics of UNESCO also uses a more general definition of GPI: for any development indicator one can define the GPI relative to this indicator by dividing its value for females by its value for males. For example, some UNESCO documents consider gender parity in literacy. http://unstats.un.org/unsd/mdg/Metadata.aspx?IndicatorId=9.

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Acknowledgements

The author would like to acknowledge the D-Lab and IDEAS Global Challenge instructors, staff and students who have contributed to making these programs such a dynamic, joyful, egalitarian and supportive learning environment, and without whom the successes described here would not have been possible.

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Correspondence to Susan Murcott .

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Appendices

Appendix 1

MIT Award-Winning Student Teams Advised by Susan Murcott. More info on specific IDEAS teams is available on the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge Website: http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/teams/past.

The table below lists the 31 winning teams (26 IDEAS teams plus 5 other team awards), along with the project location, the type and amount of the award, the team leader, D-Lab-WASH class participants and/or other students on that team.

Year

Team name

Project location

Competitiona award

Team leaders, D-Lab-WASH class participants and/or team members

2015

Change: WATER

Jordon

$10,000 IDEAS Award

Grace Connors, Jessie Press-Williams, Diana Yousef

2014

Clean water clean data

Ghana, Guatemala

$7500 IDEAS Award

David Taylor, Natasha Wright, Marcelo Giovanni

2014

My H2O Team

PR China

$1500 IDEAS Community Choice Award. $39,000 National Geographic Air and Water Quality Fund Award (2014)

Xiaoyuan “Charlene” Ren

2014

Ways2Clean

Bangladesh

$3000 IDEAS Award

Tamanna Islam Urmi

2013

Spouts of water

Uganda

>$50,000 from competitions, grants and fund-raisers

Seul (Kathy) Ku, Suvai Gunasekaran, Hannarae Nam

2013

Hope in flight

Ghana

$7500 IDEAS Award

Coyin Oh and Yiping Xing

2012

OpenIR

Indonesia

$7500 IDEAS Award

Arlene Ducao, Juhee Bae, Ilias Koen, Abdulaziz Alghunaim

2012

wecyclers

Nigeria

$7500 IDEAS Award

Bilikiss Olatoyosi, Alex Fallon, M. Hickman, Emily Boggs

2011

AQUA

Tanzania

$5000 IDEAS Community Choice Award

Peter Kang and Junyun Song

2011

Kosim water keg

Ghana, Guatemala

$10,000 Global Challenge Award

Joanna Cummings, Chris Schulz

2011

SafeWaterWorld

Chile

$7500 IDEAS Award

Samantha O’Keefe

2010

The grease project

Brazil

$3000 IDEAS Award

Ana Bonomi

2010

My city, my future (ArteRio)

Brazil

$3000 IDEAS Award

Kate Balug & Alix Beranger

2010

PieceMeal vendors

Thailand

$1000 Community Choice Award

Kim Liao

2009

Global cycle solutions

Tanzania

$30,000 $100K Award Emerging Markets Track

Jodie Wu

2009

Global citizen water initiative

Tibet

$5000 IDEAS Award

Scott Frank

2007

New DOTS

Nicaragua, India

$5000 IDEAS Award

Angela Kirby, Jeff Blander, Elizabeth Gillenwater, Jose Gomez-Marquez, Minyoun Jang, Aron Walker

2007

Vac-cast prosthetics

Cambodia

$7500 IDEAS Competition

Tess Veuthey

2006

CentroMigrante

Philippines

1st Prize. MIT $100K Sloan Entrepreneurship Competition—Dev. Entrepreneurship Track

Illac Dias

2006

FirstStepCoral

Philippines

$7500 IDEAS Award

Illac Dias

2006

Peanut revolution

Philippines

$5000 IDEAS Award

Illac Dias

2006

Kounkuey design initiative

Kenya

$150,000 International Resource Award for Sustainable Watershed Management (2012)

Chelina Odbert and Jennifer Toy

2006

Synergetic power systems

Lesotho

$225,000 (Only winning student team in this competition in 2006)

Elizabeth Wayman, Amy Mueller, Matthew Orosz, Sorin Grama, Ignacio Aquirre, Perry Hung, Mark Wolf

2006

Synergetic power systems

Lesotho

$125K Ignite Clean Energy Business Competition Winner

Elizabeth Wayman, Amy Mueller, Matthew Orosz, Sorin Grama, Ignacio Aquirre, Perry Hung, Mark Wolf

2005

Parabolic power II (former team name of synergetic power systems)

Lesotho

$2000 IDEAS International Technology Award

Elizabeth Wayman, Amy Mueller, Matthew Orosz, Sorin Grama, Ignacio Aquirre, Perry Hung, Mark Wolf

2005

Solar water disinfection device

Nepal

$2000 IDEAS Award

Deborah Xanat Flores.

2005

Mozambique environmental sanitation initiative

Mozambique

$3000 IDEAS Award

Brian Robinson, Pragnya Alekai + 7 other teammates from DUSP

2004

TestWaterCheap

Peru

$5000 IDEAS Award

Brittany Coulbert

2003

Lumbini water solutions

Nepal

$3000 IDEAS Award

Melanie Pincus

2003

MIT UV tube project

Nepal

$2000 IDEAS International Technology Innovation Award

Deborah Xanat Flores

2002

Dlo Prop—Water treatment project

Haiti

$1K Warm-up to the Sloan $50K business competition. Sustainable development category

Luca Morganti

2002

Pure water for nicaragua

Nicaragua

$5000 IDEAS Award

Rebecca Huang

2002

Innovative drinking water technology for bangladesh (KanchanTM arsenic filter)

Nepal

$5000 International Technology Innovation Award sponsored by the Lemelson-MIT Program

Tommy Ngai, Sophie Walewijk, Roshan Shrestha, Susan Murcott

  1. aCompetitions Entered:
  2. • IDEAS Global Challenge Competition (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
  3. • MIT $100K Competition (2006, 2009, 2013)
  4. • Lemelson International Technology Award (2002, 2003)
  5. • World Bank Development Marketplace Competition (2006)
  6. • Commonwealth of Mass—$125K Ignite Clean Energy Business Competition (2006)
  7. • International Resource for Sustainable Watershed Mgt Swiss Reinsurance Co. Ltd (2012)
  8. • National Geographic Air and Water Quality Fund Award (2014)

Appendix 2

Descriptions of Selected Award-Winning Student Teams Advised by Susan Murcott. More info on specific IDEAS teams is available on the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge Website: http://globalchallenge.mit.edu/teams/past.

Kanchan TM Arsenic Filter ($5000 in 2002): The Kanchan TM Arsenic Filter (KAF) was designed to address arsenic contamination of drinking water at the household scale in rural Nepal. About 350,000 people (35,000 households) in the Terai region of Nepal, where there is high arsenic contamination of groundwater, are exposed to an arsenic concentration above 50 ppb, the national drinking water standard for Nepal. KAFs have been implemented for about two-thirds of that population—about 250,000 people which translates to about 25,000 households In addition to winning one of the original IDEAS awards in 2002, the KAF team has been recognized for a number of other awards including: World Bank Development Marketplace Competition (2003); Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Award—Environment Category (2005); St. Andrews Prize for the Environment—2nd Prize (2006); Kyoto Water Prize—Top Ten Finalists (2006). A $50K award from Dubai Expo Live in 2014 is enabling the KAF team to reach 20,000 new users in 20 schools in the Bardiya and Kailali districts of the Mid- and Far-Western Terai region in 2015.

Vac-Cast Prosthetics ($7500 in 2007): There are over 25,000 new amputees annually in India as a result of accidents and disease. Despite the availability of free prosthetics and fitting services through several NGOs, only half of these victims receive a prosthetic device that is specifically tailored to their residual limb. One factor for a patient to opt for treatment is whether they can devote the time necessary for the prosthetic fitting and fabrication process in an urban clinic. Conversely, patient throughput by these organizations is limited by the finite resources that they can allocate per patient for the lengthy treatment. Fortunately, there is a novel sand-casting (SC) fitting technique that could increase patient throughput by a factor of five. However, SC cannot be deployed everywhere because it requires a vacuum device that is costly and electricity-intensive. VacCast Prosthetics has developed a simple alternative to this machine that overcomes these limitations. Our technology is unique, easy-to-use, human-powered, costs under $200, is built using materials commonly found in a mechanics shop, uses no electricity, and can be integrated seamlessly with the other sand-casting treatment devices. The VacCast team has developed this device in collaboration with the Jaipur Foot Organization, the world leader in supplying prosthetic limbs and its affiliates to guarantee that our technology will meet the same needs as the electric vacuum machine. The follow-up to this invention and prize was that the team leader, Tess Veuthey, went on to win a Fulbright fellowship to bring this innovation to Cambodia, where there is a high number of amputees.

Hope In Flight ($7500 in 2013): According to a 2010 UN report, 80 % of the waste generated in northern Ghanaian villages and towns consists of organic waste—most of which are not properly collected or disposed in a safe and healthy manner. One of these villages is Taha, our target community of about 600 people. Such accumulation of waste promotes infectious diseases and the contamination of precious water supplies. Hope in Flight utilizes a low-tech optimizing system that exploits the natural capabilities of the Black Soldier Fly (BSF), a species native to Ghana and other areas in Sub-Saharan Africa, to efficiently process organic waste. BSF larva turns every kilogram of organic waste into 29 US cents worth of protein meal! The collected BSF pre-pupae can be processed into profitable, safe, and nutritious animal feed. Business Model Using a technology transfer, Hope in Flight has brought the specialized waste bioconversion systems to entrepreneurs at the University of Development Studies in northern Ghana. The entrepreneurs use the systems to produce protein-rich BSF meal from organic waste, and earn a steady income by selling their farmed product for further processing. Hope in Flight sells the BSF meal as high-quality animal feed to egg, poultry, and fish farmers.

My H 2 O ($1500 in 2014): MyH2O is one of the first online crowd-sourcing platforms on water contamination and water quality issues in China < http://www.myh2o.org/>. Although the media in China has become increasingly open about China’s environmental problems, the public is still only presented with limited information on water quality. Inspired by the air quality (PM 2.5) campaigns on social media that stirred public reaction and led to greatly increased transparency for air quality information, MyH2O is one of the first online crowd-sourcing platforms on China’s water quality. Created in partnership with China Youth Climate Action Network (CYCAN), MyH2O aims to promote water risk awareness, increase information transparency and motivate citizen solutions through independent reports of water quality. In addition to their 2014 IDEAS Competition Community Choice award, this team also won a National Geographic Air and Water Quality Fund Award of $39,000 in 2014.

Clean Water Clean Data ($10,000 in 2014): Clean Water-Clean Data’s product innovation is the “Smart Spout” that won a $10,000 IDEAS Competition award in 2014. The Smart Spout is a new spigot that can be placed on household water filters to record the frequency and duration of use. The data is read by a smart phone placed on the device. This product allows public health advocates to monitor how text message reminders reflect filter usage patterns. This innovation enables monitoring of consistent and continuous use and provides an objective measure of use, independent of reporting bias. The team intends to pilot their invention in 2015.

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Murcott, S. (2016). D-Lab and MIT IDEAS Global Challenge: Lessons in Mentoring, Transdisciplinarity and Real World Engineering for Sustainable Development. In: Leal Filho, W., Nesbit, S. (eds) New Developments in Engineering Education for Sustainable Development. World Sustainability Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-32933-8_19

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