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Beyond the Infinite

Read the full version Beyond the Infinite, Fall 2011
Issue 1, Volume 6

About this issue
In 2011, MIT will celebrate 150 years of service to the world
IDEAS Competition Teams
Helping Pakistani girls attend school
Improvements in Western China
Faster mobility aids
Village-scale energy solutions
Sloan sophomore and Class President Amanda David ’13 brings her passion for service to the Class of 2013

About this issue

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MIT celebrates 150 years of service to the world

In partnership with MIT150 and the MIT Alumni Association, the Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center has launched the MIT Global Challenge, an invitation to the MIT community to support innovation as public service.

The MIT Global Challenge will connect and reward teams of service innovators that are working to reduce barriers to human well-being in communities around the world. Combined, IDEAS and the MIT Global Challenge will award up to $25,000 per team to innovative public service projects that demonstrate the greatest innovation, feasibility, and potential for impact. Partner with us to identify innovation opportunities, join or support student teams as mentors and volunteers, underwrite Global Challenge awards, or just peruse MIT's ingenuity at work on pressing issues that address people's needs.

Key features of the MIT Global Challenge website include an area where anyone can define problems, team creation tools to tackle community problems, a marketplace for "Help Wanted" and "Help Offered" ads that enable community members to connect and support teams, and voting tools that will help decide which teams receive awards.

MIT students have the ambition, the energy, and the skills to make the world a better place. MIT alumni have the experience, the connections, and the depth of understanding to help make that dream happen. The MIT Global Challenge will bring those two groups together to impact the world, says Brian Hinman SM'84.

The MIT Global Challenge is featured on MIT News

Find out more at

IDEAS Competition teams: moving ahead through innovation

We couldn't be more proud of what IDEAS Competition teams have accomplished. Entering its tenth year, the IDEAS Competition has spawned teams of inventors who have made quality of life improvements for those who need them the most. We have had the pleasure of watching IDEAS teams develop their project in significant ways by acquiring funding, developing new partnerships, and gaining recognition. Here are some highlights.

Helping Pakistani girls attend school

Fareeba and Fatima (pictured on our landing page) are Afghan refugee girls who, thanks to BLISS (Business and Life Skills School) can now attend school instead of working as carpet weavers for 12-14 hours a day. Through BLISS, girls take part in an after-school program where they learn traditional Afghan embroidery skills that they use to decorate handbags. These skills help to ensure their livelihood and enhance their earning potential. BLISS, a 2009 IDEAS Competition award winning team, was cofounded by Saba Gul '05, SM '09 and Eleni Orphanides '10.

“Our mission is to bring these girls to school and keep them in school,” says Gul. Families in Pakistan, Saba's home country, however face the difficult choice of sending their daughters to weave carpets for a small wage or sending them to school. In the BLISS program, the girls, ranging in age from 13-25, earn a wage that is slightly higher than if they were to weave carpets. Gul's intention is to equip these girls with business and life skills. She also hopes to partner with big names in the fashion industry to gain more recognition and increase sales of the handbags. The handbags will soon be available on Stay tuned via the BLISS blog.

Dinner with Hillary Clinton

This past September, Gul was invited by Hillary Clinton to a U.S. State Department Dinner, an annual event that this year welcomed 70 young change-makers. Read more on Slice of MIT.

Improvements in Western China

One Earth Designs, the team behind the SolSource 3-in-1 – a lightweight and portable solar energy device for cooking, heating, and electricity generation – won €500,000 in the Dutch Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. SolSource was a 2008 IDEAS Competition winner.

For the population in Western China who use dung as fuel or carry cement-based solar cookers, this is very good news. Wood is hard to come by and women spend many hours gathering dung for use as fuel for indoor cooking, a practice that contributes to smoke inhalation and lung disease. Some families invest in heavy cement-based solar cookers that take four people to turn to follow the sun’s path. The SolSource 3-in-1 eliminates many of the problems associated with indoor air population, labor inequalities, and greenhouse gasses. One Earth Designs has been working with target users in rural Himalayan communities and will use the award to set up a new manufacturing and distribution base in China.

One Earth Designs is led by Scot Frank '08, Catlin Powers, Sloan Kulper, and Xire Jiancuo. The organization has also pioneered two other IDEAS Competition winners: HeatSource, a personal heating solution, and Global Citizen Water Initiative, a water quality management program.

Read more about the award on MIT News International prize for solar cooker

Latest news: One Earth Designs was just selected as a semi-finalist for the 2011 Echoing Green Fellowships. Read more...

Faster mobility aids

Another 2008 IDEAS Competition winner, the Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC), a lever-powered mobility aid for developing countries, won the R&D 100 Award as well as one of three Editor’s Choice Award. The award is sponsored by the R&D magazine, which features state of the art advances in science and technology. Along with winning the Scientific American World Changing Ideas Video Contest , the LFC was also a runner-up in the 2010 Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Awards. The team, led by Amos Winter SM ’05, PhD '10, tested the wheelchairs in Guatemala this past summer with a grant from the Inter-American Development Bank. Constructed from cheap and easily available bicycle parts, the LFC can travel rapidly on tarmac and on rough terrain.

Read more about the LFC on MIT News New wheelchair gets its first real-world test
Read about Amos Winter on our stories page Amos Winter Designs a Better Wheelchair

Affordable energy

In 2005, the Solar Turbine Group, now known as STG International, just won an IDEAS Competition award for their parabolic trough reflectors that provide clean and affordable energy to villages. Now, five years later, the team, led by doctoral student in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Matthew Orosz MNG '03, SM '06, is thriving, and was just awarded the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, which brings to the team an award of $100,000. The team, which includes doctoral student Amy Mueller ’02, MNG ’03 and MIT alums Elizabeth Wayman ’04, SM ’06 and Bryan Urban SM ’07, is developing village-scale solar thermal power plant technology at a lower cost for use in remote locations. The award will help support the completion of two test systems: the Pilot Clinic user-test site in Lesotho in Southern Africa, and the Eckerd College technology testing site in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Read more about the award on MIT News MIT teams dominate national energy contest
Read about STG on our stories page Sustainable Energy in Lesotho

Sloan sophomore brings her passion for service to the Class of 2013

As organizer of CityDays, a major MIT Orientation event, Amanda David '13, Class President, recruited a record number of upperclassman volunteers. David is using that same knack to run a new service competition for Fraternities, Sororities and Independent Living Groups and Dorms (FSILG&D) sponsored by the 484 Phi Alpha Foundation. Stay tuned; the challenge will take place this spring. David was recently profiled in the Sloan Newsletter.

"I love planning events, and it was just a great opportunity for me to do something that's fun while also coordinating service projects. I know that I can't personally contribute 2,800 hours of community service, but I was able to help facilitate a group that could," she said. Read more on our stories page