Week 6

Does your work require IRB approvals?

I don’t think that my work in the Philippines will require IRB approvals. We are not researching people, we are working with them to set up a business venture. We hope to be able to collaborate with them to create high value marketable goods out of recyclable plastic waste found in the Philippines. This type of work, while requiring research into markets and the preexisting ecosystem of the plastics industry in the Philippines will not actually involve human focused research. The only scenario I can think of that we may need IRB approval is if we investigate more deeply into the women of the co-op’s lives. It is possible, if unlikely, that we go down the route and really dig deep into the lives of the women we are working with in an attempt to formulate our workshops in a way that can really harness their creativity.

Develop a Logic Model for your venture

The three main aspects of a Logic Model are inputs, outputs, and outcomes.

  • Inputs:
    • time planning our business
    • time researching plastic recycling
    • collaboration with UPD
    • time gathering information about the plastic ecosystem
    • recyclable plastics
    • machines (modeled after precious plastic designs)
    • the space our workshop will run in
  • Outputs:
    • creatavate at Lehigh
    • workshop in the Philippines
    • development of product design
    • high value marketable products
    • self-sustaining business
    • full-fledged diagram of the plastics industry ecosystem
  • Outcomes:
    • self-sustaining business
    • creative outputs of women in the co-op
    • reliable source of income
    • increased awareness about tackling the plastic problem
    • collaboration with new partners in the Philippines and the United States

Week 5

Based on your life experience, skills and interests, what would a design process that is both uniquely yours and effective look like?

When I’m presented with a problem that I don’t know the answer to, I almost always go to my friends or classmates and ask them how they would approach it. I like building off of what people have done and adding my insights to theirs and coming up with a new solution. I think that this comes from my lifetime involvement in team sports. In both ice hockey and rowing, its impossible to do anything by yourself. You need your teammates to make hockey plays and to race in the 8-man shells. I feel like I am most valuable when working in a team. I like dividing and conquering tasks to streamline work but also having periodic check-ins with a full group to get everyone up to speed.

How will you validate your project concept, technology, usability, operational / business model?

I would validate my project by showing that there are many people collaborating on my project. This would help give my project credibility because if there are more minds working on the same problem, there are more chances that people will catch any potential flaws. They would be able to look at the problem in different ways and see it in different lights. People of many different backgrounds can specify their focuses and really concentrate on small issues. Then when teams get together they can smooth over the seams between the individual issues. I think that I would validate the usability of technology by creating many prototypes and doing extensive testing with them.

Articulate your philosophy of engagement with communities, partners, and markets.

I think that the purpose of project, especially in this fellowship, is to benefit the communities. Since that’s such an important aspect of projects, I believe that the people involved with the project need to be completely transparent with the community. Project managers need to listen to those who live in the community and really understand their culture and needs before they can even start to formulate an idea of how to give them a hand up. Additionally, members of the community will be the ones taking over the endeavor so they need to be completely aware of what is going on. I think that it is equally important to be engaged with partners and the markets. Working closely with business partners is a really good idea because then there are more people invested in the success of the project. Additionally, staying engaged with the markets means that you have a good idea of market demands so that your product will be able to sell and your business will stay afloat.

Week 4

This week we had to cancel seminar because of the weather, but we all did the assignments on our own and answered questions after researching the given topics!

Give three examples of how you can use nature as a model / mentor / measure for your own designs (and life).

I think that one of the ways that I can use nature as a model for my designs is by using the shapes of things as inspiration. Spiders are pretty good at weaving webs that hold weight, so maybe that can help in bridge designs. Birds are pretty good at moving fast, so maybe that can help in the designs of high-speed vehicles like planes and trains. I could also use nature as a mentor in my personal life. One of the things that I tend to stress about in my life is how I perform in sports. As a Division 1 NCAA athlete, rowing takes up a lot of my time and energy. Sometimes I feel like its overwhelming. But one thing that I’ve internalized is how resilient humanity, and all of nature is. Evolution has fine-tuned species so that they are uniquely suited to their surroundings. Now all I have to do is put in the work and let my surroundings fine-tune me into an elite athlete. Basically, I think about nature as a mentor when my coach tells me to ‘trust the process.’

Pick one of Life’s Principles. Explain how you might apply it to your work and life (could be unrelated to your GSIF projects).

I think that the integration of cyclic processes can be applied to the plastics project. Not onl­­­­y are we trying to eliminate waste by actually using waste as our initial resource, but we also are just one player in a larger system who is innovating to fit new social needs. We take input from Lehigh students, UPD students, professors and mentors around the globe to come up with an idea to make a business by selling recycled products. Since there are so many people working on this project and collaborating with experts outside of the main research team, ideas flood in and evolve to become what is hopefully a successful business.

How do you envision integrating the Cradle to Cradle Design concept into your project (and life)? Give one compelling example.

The main idea that I took out of the Cradle to Cradle Design is that everything becomes a resource for something else. I think that this is a really interesting concept to apply to this plastic recycling project. As the project stands now, we are using plastic waste as our resource. We are using energy efficient (or that is the plan) machines to process this plastic waste into a marketable product. This shows how something (plastic) is a resource for something else (our products). But what are our products a resource for? Can they be turned into something valuable for our environment? The simple answer is that we aren’t sure. We know that once different types of plastics are mixed together in the recycling process that the plastic can’t be recycled again. Maybe this will lead us to being more diligent with separation of different types of plastic and then labelling our final products with their corresponding number.

Give three examples of something very interesting you learned from a friend that was a completely alien concept to you.

  • Maine is the only one syllable state. This may seem like a trivial piece of information, and it is. However, it shows how people tend to overlook the details. Like any other students in the United States I memorized every US state, but I never took the time to see how many syllables each has. What I took away from that is the following – something commonly overlooked could have important value in a project, or just as a fun conversation starter.
  • Discipline in new areas. Before meeting Maya, one of my roommates, I understood discipline in the sense of getting schoolwork done and performing well in sports. I never really thought about discipline in other aspects of life. Now, after being exposed to it, I developed the discipline to make my deb every morning, to go to bed at a ~semi~ regular hour, and to eat clean consistently.
  • In Wyoming, the boys buy their dates’ prom dresses. That is SO DRASTICALLY different from any other prom experience I’ve ever heard of. Some people might think that its sweet but to be honest I think that it puts pressure on the girls to find a date because if they don’t, then they’re dateless (which isn’t normally what people want) and they have to pay for their own dressed. It discourages girl gangs.

Week THREE!!

This week we focused on how stakeholders for our project and how we can validate ourselves as contributors. Here are my answers to the prompts this week:

Describe the five major stakeholders for your project and their motivations.

  • Women’s co-op – The women’s co-op is in the forefront of this project. Not only is the project designed to benefit its members, but the women involved will be the ones directly affected by it. They will be able to pad their income, make a difference in their community by recycling plastic, and learn a new skill. The co-op wants the best for its women and its community.
  • University of Philippines – The University of the Philippines is also very involved with this project. Not only are there many students working on designs for products, but they may actually be able to purchase products from the co-op when the project is implemented. One of the goals for Project Plastikan is that some recyclables be taken out of the waste disposal system and turned into something marketable and useful. If this is successful, then those affiliated with UPD could potentially have a cleaner environment.
  • Lehigh – Lehigh University is an obvious stakeholder for this project because many of the people working on Project Plastikan are affiliated with the University. Lehigh students and staff are putting a lot of time and energy into this project. We want this project to be a success because it would mean that our project works – that our innovative solution to a regional problem is affective.
  • Bishops Council – The women’s co-op that we are working with in the Philippines has a religious background. That means that the Bishops Council will be giving their support to the project since it directly affects the women who they are already committed to.
  • Women’s rights groups – Women’s rights groups in the Philippines will take an interest in this project because it will hopefully be empowering women to rise above their current station of life. The recycling program will help kickstart a business and provide an income for the women who work there.

Describe three ways in which you will validate your project and enhance your credibility over the course of the semester.

One of the ways that my group will validate our project this semester is by conducting a workshop on Lehigh’s campus. This workshop will allow us as a team to work through some of our design details before we get to the Philippines. It will also give us some insights about the types of products we will be able to teach the women’s co-op how to make. If Lehigh students have a hard time wrapping their heads around something, then the women in the Philippines likely would have trouble with it too. Another way that my team’s credibility will be enhanced is that we will be talking with our colleagues in the University of the Philippines a lot. The plan is to have weekly or biweekly contact with the students at UPD to give each other updates on how each side’s work is going. This continuous conversation between the students at Lehigh and those at UPD will give credibility to our project because it shows that there are various groups around the world who care about his project and are willing to work around time differences to get things done. Hopefully we will be able to start contacting them within the week. We will also be able to validate our project by modeling our plan off of a pre-existing plastic recycling project called Precious Plastic. Precious Plastic already has a global impact on recycling, so if we model our program off of theirs, we will also be able create a livelihood for women in addition to helping the environment.

Blog Post 2 :)

We just wrapped up our second week of classes and were able to go on a retreat to really focus on our project in detail. Here are some of the questions we answered after class.

Give three compelling examples of how cultural issues affect your project.

Since the plastic recycling project is so new, we have not come directly into contact with any cultural issues that have affected it. However, I do anticipate that we will run into them at some point. I think that one of the things that my team might struggle with is helping these women tap into their creative side. Not many jobs in the Philippines require design as part of the job description. However, we are asking these women to think outside the box and imagine products that they could make money off of. This might be an issue because it can be difficult for the women to rewire their brains after 40 years of other kinds of thinking. Another cultural issue that we have yet to look into is if there is any stigma surrounding recycled goods. In the United States, people are willing to pay more for products made from recycled material, but we don’t know any information about attitudes about recycled materials in the Philippines. This could drastically affect the marketability of the products the women are making. Another way that cultural issues could affect our project is that there might be some people who look down on women who leave their family to work. Philippine culture places emphasis on family, but men have historically been the breadwinners.

Have you experienced or observed any of these social situations at home? Describe at least three such situations.

I have definitely encountered challenges that limit creativity. My mom jokes about the “Falk gene” that renders all who have it incapable of mastering another language. My grandfather famously manages to pass Spanish with a D and a promise to never take another language class again. Thankfully, my talents were not as dire as my grandfathers, but I too find it difficult to master the pronunciation of other languages. This inability to change pattern in my brain may happen to the women who we are trying to teach. They may be able to manufacture pre-set patterns, but we have yet o find out heir capacity for design. As for a stigma surrounding sustainability, I surprisingly enough can relate.  Although my family is highly involved with sustainability efforts – my home even has solar panels on it back in Pittsburgh, not everyone I know is. My family was trash talked in our local newspaper because we installed the solar panels and they were an aesthetic blemish in the neighborhood. The final piece about how some families may have reservations about the women leaving to work is actually something that I can relate to. For almost as long as I can remember, both of my parents have worked full or part-time jobs. However, my dad has always made more money than my mom. Even now when my mom works three part-time jobs while my dad works one full time job, their salaries are not equal. My mom also works from home while my dad commutes to an office every day.

Give three examples of cultural practices that can be leveraged to addressed community / market problems.

One of the major aspects of Philippine culture is that they place a high priority on family. This could potentially be leveraged to help market and community issues because everything can be twisted into a form where “oh if you do ____, then your community will be stronger and your family will be better off for it.” Other than the emphasis on familial ties, my group and I have so much to learn about the culture in the Philippines. We need to discover to what extent machismo plays a role in the workforce. We need to find out what opportunities are available for poor workers, middle-class workers, and everyone in between. We need to understand what home-life is like so that we can see connections between cultural practices in the home and how they affect larger communities/market.

Blog Post 1!

After my first seminar, I want to share my answers to three prompts with you.

Why did you enroll in this course (motivation, prior interests)?

I enrolled in this course because I am really interested in sustainable development. As an IDEAS student studying mechanical engineering and environmental science, the impacts of sustainable development are especially pertinent to my major. I took Challenges of Sustainable Development last fall with Professor Orrs and found the material fascinating. I think that all engineers and business people should have a background in sustainable development so that we as a generation are able to design our world in such a way that our children and our children’s children will be able to grow up in a beautiful and resource-filled world. I wanted to take another sustainable development class because I want to learn how to work well with students and professionals whose expertise’s are in topics other than mechanical engineering. I want to collaborate with students from many disciplines and come up with solutions to real world problems. When I found out that my sustainable development class would be working with the Global Social Impact Fellows, it was really daunting at first. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of information about applying for grants and by just how real the fellows’ impact was on the world is. Then I took a baby step back, and recognized what this opportunity was: my dream job. I realized that this is exactly the type of impact I want to make on the world for a career. I think I’ve always had a little bit of “I want to save the world” in me – starting at a really early age, and this course and its collaboration with the Global Social Impact Fellows can help me do just that.

How do you envision this course making you a better IDEAS student?

As I mentioned earlier, one of the focuses of my IDEAS degree is on mechanical engineering. I think that this course can make me a better engineer because it helps me see the whole process—from diagnosing a problem, researching possible solution, to working with students in other fields like chemistry and business and then finally implementing the project over the summer during the trip to the Philippines. When studying a topic in college it is so easy to get caught up in the mechanic specifics and forget about all the other aspects that go into making a project successful. This course will help me remember that engineering isn’t the only thing that needs to work in order for a project to work. In addition to my mechanical engineering studies, I also am studying environmental science. This class, and this project in particular, will really help me be able to combine my two areas of study in a productive way. The project that my group will be working on is a recycling program that will a. help mitigate the plastic pollution problem in Manilla, the capital of the Philippines and b. help stimulate economic growth within some of the women co-ops that Lehigh is working with. I am really excited about working on the plastic project because I will be able to learn about recycling and use my engineering background to come up with a way to promote it. It is the perfect project to combine my interest in keeping our environment healthy and my studies of mechanics.

The World Health Organization estimates that over one billion people who need eyeglasses do not have access to them. The vast majority of these people live in developing countries like Kenya where there is barely one optometrist per one million people. Given the high poverty levels, access to eyeglasses is almost non-existent. Lack of proper eyeglasses severely impacts people and their livelihoods by decreasing their productivity at work, limiting or eliminating new opportunities, affecting their quality of life, deteriorating their general health and possibly leading to (preventable) blindness. What solution do you propose to address this problem?

My solution would have a couple of different aspects to it. First, to be able to get doctors and nurses to those who might need their attention, I propose that mobile doctor’s vans be put into effect in areas where people live without convenient access to medical attention. Since it is also significantly harder to train people to be doctors, I would suggest that each van have a single doctor but a couple of nurses who have a specialty in ophthalmology. Then when a van arrives in a town, the nurses would be able to care for some patients and the doctor could work more effectively. Second, this process could be more streamlined and cost effective if empty frames and some commonly used lenses were carried with the doctors in the van. This way, the glasses could be assembled on the spot and the van wouldn’t have to return to the town a second time to deliver the glasses. While this method might not provide the most accurate glasses, it is at least more beneficial for productivity than not wearing glasses at all. Wearing the wrong prescription eye glasses could lead to some headaches, but it will not damage eye health. The third aspect to my solution would be for old eyeglasses from developed nations to be donated to these vans. Not only is this a great example of recycling material, but it also could provide some of the less common prescription lenses, and it also makes the cause more visible to people in developed nations. If they know that their eye doctor is donating their old glasses to this cause, they might be more inclined to donate or to other work that could promote the travelling eye doctors.