International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) (7th : 2015)

MIT Ideas Global Challenge and D-Lab lessons in mentoring, transdisciplinarity and real world engineering Murcott, Susan Jun 30, 2015

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MIT IDEAS GLOBAL CHALLENGE AND D-LAB LESSONS IN MENTORING, TRANSDISCIPLINARITY AND REAL WORLD ENGINEERING Susan Murcott  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA  Abstract: This paper reflects on the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge and D-Lab pedagogy over the past 15 years (2001-2015). 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 team for innovative service projects.  IDEAS student teams work with a community partner on projects that are designed to improve the quality of life of underserved communities globally. Since its founding in 2001, the IDEAS Competition has awarded more than $600,000 to 132 teams. “D-Lab – Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Environmental Innovations for the Common Good” (“D-Lab-WASH”) 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, including 26 IDEAS Global Challenge winning teams. Eighty-one percent of these IDEAS winning teams have been led by women students. In common with the wider family of D-Lab courses, D-Lab-WASH is structured around hands-on, field-based learning and real-world engineering. This paper provides several success stories of student teams that have implemented their innovations and addresses the following Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) conference themes:  • Reconceptualizing Engineering Education:  How are these two engineering programs, IDEAS and D-Lab, reconceptualizing engineering education to incorporate sustainability?  What role does trans-disciplinarity, leadership, and humanitarianism play?  What is best practice?  • “Walking the Talk”:  How do we monitor and continually improve IDEAS and D-Lab?  What are the institutional supports and challenges?  1 INTRODUCTION The MIT IDEAS Global Challenge is an annual competition held each spring at MIT. IDEAS stands for key themes of the competition: Innovation, Development, Enterprise, Action, and Service. Awards are given for innovations that address community development challenges at home and around the world engaging community partners to co-create solutions for identified community needs. Founded in 2001, IDEAS complemented the pre-existing MIT $100K Competition, which tended, historically, to emphasize for-profit business innovation, but which has since expanded into multiple thematic areas, including Emerging Markets.  Since 2002, the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge has awarded more than $600,000 to 132 teams. Offered through the MIT Public Service Center and sponsors, IDEAS is in MIT’s best tradition of creative problem-solving, hands-on learning and entrepreneurial spirit to further positive change through innovation.  The author mentored two winning teams in the first IDEAS competition in 2001-2002 and three winning teams in the 2014 IDEAS competition. In these intervening years, the author has mentored a total 26 EESD’15    The 7th International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Vancouver, Canada, June 9 to 12, 2015  099-1  winning IDEAS Global Challenge teams -- 20% of all winning teams (Table 1). Many of these teams have innovated in the sphere of water, sanitation, hygiene and environmental projects.  Eighty-one percent of the winning teams the author has mentored have been led by women students. Since we are operating in the elite, male-dominated domain of engineering innovation and entrepreneurship, this is a wonderful manifestation of gender-inclusive pedagogy that we seek to nurture and advance. It is important to credit multiple mentors for this success, not just the one class.  In addition, some teams enter multiple competitions, during which period they get exposure to other excellent D-Lab courses and instructors.  The D-Lab family of classes has an unusual client base-- the 1+ billion people who live in poverty. In D-Lab-WASH, students propose an idea for a water/environment technology, project or plan, and are mentored through the process of bringing that seed idea to fruition.  The class’s term project requires that the student form a team and enter IDEAS or some equivalent competition(s) of their choice.   Teams mentored by the author have also entered and won various other awards and prizes, for example:    • National Geographic Air and Water Quality Fund Award (2014), • MIT $100K Competition (2006, 2009, 2013), • International Resource for Sustainable Watershed Mgmt., Swiss Reinsurance Co. Ltd (2012), • World Bank Development Marketplace Competition (2006), • Commonwealth of Massachusetts – $125K Ignite Clean Energy Business Competition (2006), • Lemelson International Technology Award (2002, 2003).  Below is a description of three IDEAS innovations, which are past and present “success stories:”  2     THREE SUCCESS STORIES My H2O ($1,500 in 2014): MyH2O is one of the first online crowd-sourcing platforms on water contamination and water quality issues in China < > 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.   KanchanTM Arsenic Filter ($5,000 in 2002): The KanchanTM 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 Nepal are exposed to the arsenic concentration above 50 ppb, the national drinking water standard for Nepal. KAFs have been implemented in about two-thirds (about 25,000 households) in the Terai region of Nepal where there is high arsenic contamination of groundwater.  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. 099-2   Table 1 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. 3    ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS Elements contributing to success of the MIT Global Challenge, the D-Lab-WASH class specifically, and to the D-Lab family of classes generally, are as follows:  • Complex Local or Global Problem: a commitment to engaging a complex, intractable, local or global problem. • Global Poverty Focus: D-Lab challenges technically-trained students to use their math, science, engineering, social science, business and other skills to tackle a broad range of global poverty issues.  • Nurturing Values of Inclusivity and Cooperation:  IDEAS and D-Lab provide a forum to nurture values of inclusivity, cooperation, service, integrity and entrepreneurship – a sense that as one human species, with only one earth, we are all involved in solving these problems by working together in teams. • Real World Engineering Linked with Real World Competition: the requirement for the D-Lab-WASH class is to enter a competition. The IDEAS Competition is one that students are encouraged to enter, but they are given the option to enter any competition(s) of their choice, and/or write a proposal for funding their idea.  • Doesn’t Matter if You Win or Lose: Everyone who completes the process of entering and presenting their idea to the judges and the public at the IDEAS Competition annual showcase event gets invaluable experience in conceptualizing and realizing their dream.  So regardless of whether they win an award, students make huge gains by embracing this opportunity and moving forward with their idea. • Listening, Supporting, Enabling Students: Given the rigors of technical science and engineering education, there is little opportunity in the traditional classroom, which focuses on mastering fundamentals, for students to gain the confidence to propose their own ideas and see them through  to fruition. Listening and supporting the students in all that they do and enabling them to have the space in the classroom to innovate their ideas is key to this pedagogy.  • Walking the Talk: The instructor also engages in innovation and entrepreneurship in international development to provide a role model to students. 4 CHALLENGES AND CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT Below are two big challenges in this domain:  1. Tenured Faculty vs “the Rest”: IDEAS/D-Lab are not typically led or supported by tenured science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) faculty, many of whom perceive the extra-curricular and possible international travel component of these projects as a distraction from more high-priority graduate and post-graduate research, publication and achievement. This divides tenured faculty, especially at elite research institutions such as MIT, from non-tenured lecturers, instructors, international development practitioners and staff who run these hands-on learning experiences.  Meanwhile, many tenured STEM faculty have little or no field experience with poverty and international development, and find these activities superfluous or simply outside of their research purview.  2. Inclusion or Exclusion: Do Women Teachers Lead to Women’s Success in Engineering Leadership?: The MIT Institute Community and Equity Office, including also top MIT leadership, embrace the rhetoric of equity and inclusion, as per the recent recommendation to create a MIT Compact on what we aspire to as a community and what we expect of one another as MIT community members. 099-3  (Bertschinger, 2015). One dimension of inclusion is gender equity.  MIT has made good strides in the last 20 years to increase the number of women faculty. Between 1995 and 2011, the percentage of women on the engineering faculty has increased from 7% to 16% and the science faculty from 8% to 19% (MIT, 2011).  Yet classroom instruction is still an overwhelmingly male enterprise. One question that comes up is whether having a woman teacher supports success of women in engineering leadership? In “How a Teacher’s Gender Affects Boys and Girls, (2006), Dee used a National Education Longitudinal Survey (NELS) which contained data on a nationally representative sample of nearly 25,000 8th graders. He concluded that “teacher’s gender does have large effects on student test performance, teacher perceptions of students and student’s engagement with academic material. Simply put, girls have better educational outcomes when taught by women and boys are better off when taught by men. These findings persist, even after… account[ing] for a variety of other characteristics of students, teachers and classrooms that may influence student learning.” If women teachers lead to women student’s success, then a corollary could be that lack of women teachers helps explain the gender gap between women and men in science and engineering. This suggests that the remedy could be gender parity in the faculty of STEM institutions.  There should be tremendous interest on the part of the MIT community in understanding the reasons for women’s significant representation in the IDEAS & D-Lab context, both at the leadership and student prize-winning levels. The purpose of Table 1 is to document this success which, I believe, shows the inspiration and support that my IDEAS/D-Lab colleagues and I are to all students generally, and the particular role models we provide especially to women students. 5 RECONCEPTUALIZING ENGINEERING EDUCATION Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) is about reconceptualizing engineering education. Likewise, the IDEAS Global Challenge Competition and the D-Lab courses are programs and classes that reconceptualize engineering education. Wiek et al have identified five key competencies in sustainability as a reference framework for academic program development (Wiek et al, 2011). IDEAS and D-Lab reconceptualize engineering education by drawing on all five of these key competencies. Below, we discuss this reconceptualization framework from the perspective of three of these five sustainability competencies – 1) systems thinking competency, 2) strategic competency and 3) interpersonal competency. 5.1 Systems Thinking Competency  Systems thinking competency refers to the ability to analyze and evaluate future issues within the sustainability context and plan for the required problem solving. Complex systems thinking and complex problem solving has been the hallmark of IDEAS/D-Lab in its grappling with extreme poverty. A key concept in the IDEAS/D-Lab universe of complex systems thinking in the face of extreme poverty is the importance of collaboration, variously referred to as co-creation (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2002), co-evolutionary design (Murcott, 2007), human-centered design (IDEO, 2015), user research framework (Smith & Leith, 2014) and “Design with the other 90%” (Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, 2015). The IDEAS Competition requires each team to have a clearly defined community partner. This previously overlooked dimension of partnership and of equality in the problem engagement bring the human dimension into the complex system. We are no longer concerned exclusively with system optimization, but with the human mind, body, heart and spirit.  This is a new and often  side-lined aspect of complex systems thinking.  We seek to engage all the world’s people in the competencies of systems thinking, design and dialogue. 5.2 Strategic Competency  Strategic competency refers to the ability to implement projects and facilitate change. Strategic competency involves leadership in the context of international co-development. The starting point is the inclusive notion that “we are all in this together.” Students in the IDEAS/D-Lab circles are challenged to co-create and implement projects and facilitate change in collaboration with community partners. Here, the contribution and challenge of IDEAS/D-Lab is how to implement projects and facilitate change in cultures and environments that are vastly different from the ones we are used to. To take a simple 099-4  example – our students are privileged – they have generally not grown up in extreme poverty.  For example, most of us have had the privilege of access to piped water and flush toilets via centralized water treatment systems. However, in communities without safe water and improved sanitation, women and children spend part of their day carrying water. These women and children often don’t go to school and have been largely invisible to engineering designers and infrastructure builders  So, this raises the question of what would engineering leadership solutions be, if we sought to co-evolve water and sanitation solutions with still largely invisible communities and people such as underprivileged women and children.  Would the engineering designs be piped water and flush toilets?  Such a practical competency can be referred to as “transdisciplinarity," encompassing a world view that considers collaboration among stakeholders as essential. This approach implies not merely engagement at the level of academic or disciplinary collaboration. It is active collaboration and involvement with community partners and the people affected by the research, technology design, project or intervention. Transdisciplinarity implies collaboration that engages people from vastly different cultures with different worldviews, different ways of generating new knowledge, and different ways of helping build partnerships that are greater than the sum of the parts. 5.3 Interpersonal Competency  Interpersonal competency refers to the ability to achieve collaboration and motivation for sustainability projects to account for all stakeholders viewpoints. It has been variously proposed that MIT change its motto from “Mens et Manus, ““Mind and Hand” to “Mind, Hand and Heart.”  I would go further to suggest a new MIT motto: “Mind, Hand, Heart and Spirit.” “Mind and Hand” captures competencies that MIT has been historically famous for – science and engineering, basic and applied research, theory and practice. IDEAS and the D-Lab family of classes are also exemplars of “Mind and Hand.” They embody science. They embody engineering. However, they also bring heart and spirit into the equation, and welcome onto the team non-tenured faculty, development practitioners, and community members such as underprivileged women and children. How do you bring heart and spirit (and women and children) into the equation and onto the team? One answer could be “inclusion.”   In terms of gender, one aspect of inclusion could be parity of women and men on the MIT faculty, ideally not one to two generations from now soon, but what about in the next decade? It could be done … if there were the political will. This parity is lacking in STEM faculties at MIT and around the world. But if we consider inclusion important, then it is necessary to consider those rare examples where parity is being achieved in STEM institutions already.  As has been mentioned, MIT has made significant progress towards parity in its science and engineering student body and faculty, but there is still a huge gap (MIT, 2011). Yet in our midst, we already have examples, such as the IDEAS Competition and the D-Lab classes, where women and minorities, and the LBGT community and non-tenured faculty and development practitioners and even women and children from backgrounds of extreme poverty are present in transdisciplinary teams, and where women, among others, are attracted in great numbers. These programs and classes and development projects and design innovations “are being the change we wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi). It is fair to say that these programs, classes, development projects and design innovations also provide rare examples of parity, in the sense of significantly greater numbers of women in leadership roles within MIT’s Schools of Science and Engineering.   This paper constitutes the author’s reflections on the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge and D-Lab pedagogy. This is a work in progress. Comments, critiques and ideas that will change the world are welcome. References  Bertschinger E. (2015) Advancing a Respectful and Caring Community. Executive Summary and Recommendations. MIT: Cambridge MA. (accessed 2-16-15) Dee T.S. (2006). How a Teacher’s Gender Affects Boys and Girls. Education Next. Fall.2006. (accessed 2-16-15) IDEO. (2015). Human Centered Design Toolkit. 2nd Edition (accessed 1-26-15)  Murcott, S. (2007). Coevolutionary Design for Development: Influences Shaping Engineering Design and Implementation in Nepal and the Global Village. Journal of International Development. 19, 1, 123-144 099-5  (2007) Special Issue on Engineering and International Development. Published online by Wiley Interscience: ( DOI: 10.1002/jid.1353  MIT. (2011). A Report on the Status of Women Faculty in the Schools of Science and Engineering at MIT. (accessed 1-26-15) Prahalad C.K., and Ramaswamy, V. (2002). The Co-creation Connection. Strategy + Business. Second Quarter 2002. Issue 27. (accessed 1-26-15) Smith, R and Leith, K. (2014). User Research Framework. D-Lab Scale-ups. MIT. 2014. (accessed 1-26-15) Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. (2015). Design with the Other 90 Percent.  (accessed 1-26-15) Wiek, A., Withycombe, L., & Redman, C. L. (2011). Key competencies in sustainability: a reference framework for academic program development. Sustainability Science, 6(2), 099-6  Appendix  Table 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:  Year Team Name Project Location Competition* 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 $7,500 IDEAS Award   David Taylor, Natasha Wright, Marcelo Giovanni 2014 My H2O Team PR China $1,500 IDEAS Community Choice Award. $39,000 National Geographic Air and Water Quality Fund Award  (2014) Xiaoyuan "Charlene" Ren 2014 Ways2Clean Bangladesh $3,000 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 $7,500 IDEAS Award Coyin Oh and Yiping Xing 2012 OpenIR Indonesia $7,500 IDEAS Award Arlene Ducao, Juhee Bae, Ilias Koen, Abdulaziz Alghunaim 2012 wecyclers Nigeria Sustainia Award Bilikiss Olatoyosi, Alex Fallon,  M. Hickman,   Emily Boggs 2011 AQUA Tanzania $5,000 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 $7,500 IDEAS Award Samantha O’Keefe 2010 The Grease Project Brazil $3000 IDEAS Award Ana Bonomi 2010 My City, My Future (ArteRio). Brazil $3,000 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 $5,000 IDEAS Award Scott Frank 2007 New DOTS Nicaragua, India $5,000 IDEAS Award Angela Kirby, Jeff Blander, Elizabeth Gillenwater, Jose Gomez-Marquez, Minyoun Jang, Aron Walker 2007 Vac-Cast Prosthetics Cambodia $7,500 IDEAS Competition Tess Veuthey 2006 CentroMigrante Philippines 1st Prize. MIT $100K Sloan Entrepreneurship Competition – Dev. Entrepreneurship Track Illac Dias 2006 FirstStepCoral Philippines $7,500 IDEAS Award Illac Dias 2006 Peanut Revolution Philippines $5,000 IDEAS Award Illac Dias 2006 Kounkuey Design Kenya $150,000  Chelina Odbert and Jennifer xxx-7 Initiative International Resource Award for Sustainable Watershed Management.(2012) 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 $2,000 IDEAS International Technology Award Elizabeth Wayman, Amy Mueller, Matthew Orosz, Sorin Grama, Ignacio Aquirre, Perry Hung, Mark Wolf 2005 Solar Water Disinfection Device Nepal $2,000 IDEAS Award Deborah Xanat Flores.  2005 Mozambique Environmental Sanitation Initiative Mozambique $3,000 IDEAS Award Brian Robinson, Pragnya Alekai + 7 other teammates from DUSP 2004 TestWaterCheap Peru $5,000 IDEAS Award Brittany Coulbert 2003 Lumbini Water Solutions Nepal $3,000 IDEAS Award Melanie Pincus 2003 MIT UV Tube Project Nepal $2,000 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 $5,000 IDEAS Award Rebecca Huang 2002 Innovative Drinking Water Technology for Bangladesh (KanchanTM Arsenic Filter) Nepal $5,000 International Technology Innovation Award sponsored by the Lemelson-MIT Program Tommy Ngai, Sophie Walewijk, Roshan Shrestha, Susan Murcott  [*] COMPETITIONS ENTERED: • IDEAS Global Challenge Competition (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) • MIT $100K Competition (2006, 2009, 2013)  • Lemelson International Technology Award (2002, 2003) • World Bank Development Marketplace Competition (2006) • Commonwealth of Mass – $125K Ignite Clean Energy Business Competition (2006)  • International Resource for Sustainable Watershed Mgt Swiss Reinsurance Co. Ltd (2012) • National Geographic Air and Water Quality Fund Award  (2014)   099-8 


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