Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center

Identify, Design and Launch a Sustainable EcoTechnology Community - Social Development

El Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica, Optica y Electronica (INAOE), Mexico


INAOE is a Public Investigation Center, whose mission is to create, advance and disseminate knowledge in order to contribute to the development of Mexico and that of humanity. Identifying and solving scientific and technological problems is also our goal and INAOE is committed to national growth through the promotion of social values like: solidarity, creativity and competitiveness.

LTM/GMT is a 50-m (currently, 32-m) diameter single-dish telescope optimized for astronomical observations at millimeter wavelengths (0.85 mm < λ < 4 mm). The LMT Project is a bi-national collaboration between INAOE and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Beyond the principal scientific goal to understand the physical process of structure formation and its evolutionary history throughout the Universe, the LMT management team is committed have a positive impact on the social and economic the growth of the communities surrounding the Telescope, who are critical to the success of the project. We view the LMT as a “knowledge center” able to attract talent and expertise that can increase the quality of life for these small communities. The Telescope is surrounded by the municipality of Atzitzintla which consists of 2 small towns, Atzitzintla and Texmalaquilla. Initially, we plan to focus our development efforts in Texmalaquilla, an under-developed town of 1,500 people, who are mostly women and children. Texmalaquilla is located approximately 2680 meters above sea level, close to the National Park Pico de Orizaba.

The Challenge

The community of Texmalaquilla faces many challenges that range inadequate education to access to resources: water and clean water, nutrition, health, agriculture, the need for dry bathrooms and power/energy/heat, i.e. fuel resources. In a recent meeting with the community mothers’ the three main areas of concern were: health, food and secure housing (here it was discussed the possible of using solar energy to improve conditions). Additionally, many of the men have left the community to find work in either the United State or in another part of Mexico and send money back to their families (remittance is the second source of foreign income behind oil exports and represents less than 4 percent of Mexican GDP which totaled approximately $21.2 billion in 2009 according to a 2010 CBS poll). The main role of the women is to care for the children. Finding an alternative and constant economic source for the women and the community would be a major achievement and increase the quality of life. Part of the challenge will be to identify and prioritize the community needs and to develop a project that provides a technology based environmental friendly solutions that emphasize local responsibility, international partnership, consensus building, fiscal responsibility, and technical sustainability.

Community resources are limited but they will be able to provide human resources and this contribution is required in order to build sustainability. LMT/GMT through INAOE can cover incidental expenses and provide housing. Once a need is identified and project budget/plan is developed, the LMT/GMT staff and Peace Corps volunteers will assist in finding funding from both public and private sources. A group of Peace Corps volunteers are beginning to work in the community to identify and begin programs that address the social challenges. They will be able to provide the MIT students with background knowledge of the community including the problems that have already been ascertained, in additional to assisting MIT students with integrating into the community. We are looking for a student or a group of students who have a firm technical grounding in eco-technologies, an understanding of the range of issues facing developing nations that are inherent in such projects: social, political, economic, and technical, an interest in sustainable development and the improving the quality of life of the community.

Qualifications, Preferences and Assets

*Interdisciplinary skills
*Ability to work in a team
*Leadership skills

The person or persons who will participate in this project should have among them at least one team member with good working knowledge of Spanish, since the residents do not speak English. Team members also need to be able to effectively identify, evaluate, prioritize the community needs/problems, and to design an ecological solution and develop a budget for the identified need/problem. The LMT/GTM and Peace Corps volunteers will assist with all aspects of the project, as needed, but a good understanding of the principles involved, even if application experience is weak, is desirable.

Time Constraints

There are no specific time constraints. However, the sooner this project can begin, the sooner the true potential of the solution can be recognized, community training can be started, and therefore sustainability and positive results can begin be achieved.


Tessa Eckholm
Peace Corps Volunteer

PKG Center Support

MIT students who develop projects around these ideas may apply for support from the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center's Fellowships and Internships programs. Please check the program descriptions and deadlines and talk to program staff to determine which is most appropriate for your needs and project.

If you want to volunteer or you have funding from outside the PKG Center that enables you to work on this project, that's great! However, please do let us know if you work on a project you saw advertised here, even if you don't use our funds. And remember, the PKG Center staff are happy to advise on service projects even if we are not funding them ourselves.