Celebrate International Day of the Girl with D-Lab: Education!

Featuring a screening of an excerpt from "Girl Rising," a groundbreaking film which spotlights the stories of unforgettable girls born into unforgiving circumstances. Girl Rising captures their dreams, voices and remarkable lives to showcase the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world. 

Screening followed by reflections and discussion with:

SHAWN POWERS - Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

LIBBY MCDONALD - MIT Community Innovators Lab

KAREN BRENNAN - Harvard Graduate School of Education

CONNIE CHOW (Moderator) - Science Club for Girls

Friday, October 11
2:00-3:30 pm
D-Lab N51-310   

For further information contact: d-lab-youth@mit.edu

Download pdf event flyer here.



D-Lab Youth: Learning as an early-stage program, and getting ready for the fall!

Written by Jessica Huang

D-Lab's fledgling youth outreach program has trialed a number of initiatives this past year, and is now processing the lessons learned to gear up for the 2013-2014 academic year. We have been taking full advantage of the summer to undergo a strategic planning process, which has been helping us improve our activities with K-12 level youth and teachers.

The new D-Lab: Education class was piloted last semester with 19 students and a few listeners, exploring educational challenges in the international development context. Six student teams worked on projects with international community partners, while practicing curriculum development and teaching with Massachusetts schools and educational organizations. This summer, the class projects are being followed up through various mechanisms:

  • The team working with Luz del Futuro in Nicaragua was awarded a Legatum seed grant and iHouse funding and returned from a trip running educational activities with the women leaders of the waste picking cooperative and their children in Bluefields
  • Jonathan from the team working with AISE in Tanzania is on a summer PSC fellowship, working with Bernard Kiwia to document and support the educational activities he has been running with youth in Arusha
  • Janet from the team working on the Lenana Project in Kenya also received PSC funding and is working on the ground with teachers to pilot a summer program full of hands-on STEM activities in Nairobi
  • The teams working with the Kasiisi Project in Uganda and schools in New Longoro, Ghana have passed on their hands-on learning materials to people who are doing fieldwork there now, including a few Massachusetts teachers who worked with the class and mentored team projects leading up to their summer trip
  • The team working with the Avani school in India is currently planning on how they can continue their project work in the upcoming fall semeter and IAP. This team's Boston-area partner, the Advent School, has been working with D-Lab this summer to engage students in learning about the creative design process and the world around us.

In addition to the class, D-Lab has also hosted 2 education-focused UROPs this past year to create educational resources around biodigesters and technologies to improve water quality with ASAPROSAR's Barefoot Angels in El Salvador and the Kasiisi Project in Uganda. We received valuable feedback on the class and UROP positions, and are now improving the project identification process and overall structure to enable us to work with more students interested in international education from MIT, Harvard and Wellesley next year.

Staff and students have also been continuing to host youth visitors to D-Lab throughout the academic year and summer, from groups including Science Club for Girls, several public and private schools in the greater Boston area, Girl Scouts, Upward Bound, and the MIT Office of Engineering Outreach Programs. A former D-Lab: Education student has returned to work with us on the next iteration of hands-on workshop offerings, which will be starting up again in fall. Please keep an eye out for online sign-ups!

D-Lab Waste Partners with Inter America Development Bank (IADB) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Nicaragua

Written by Libby McDonald

In an effort to design a comprehensive waste management system comprised of small waste sector businesses managed by residents living in poverty in Nicaragua’s Southern Autonomous Region (RAAS), MIT’s Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) and D-Lab Waste partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank's Multi Lateral Investment Fund (MIF), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the local NGO BlueEnergy to develop a comprehensive program that simultaneously reduces greenhouse gas emissions and provides income opportunities to some of the region’s poorest inhabitants.

The video below documents D-Lab Waste student initiatives over the last three years.


D-Lab Waste's work, implementing waste sector enterprises in partnership with municipal governments and low-income residents will continue throughout the 2013 term in the D-Lab fall course, EC.716, taught by Libby McDonald.

Student projects, which will be implemented in January 2014, will include enterprise creation with waste pickers in Nicaragua; an in-depth research project that identifies the impact of trash on sea life on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua (this will require students to become certified divers over the fall term); and entrepreneurship training with indigenous communities living on four islands off the Caribbean Coast of Panama.

For more information, contact Libby McDonald at libmac@mit.edu.

D-Lab Pilots "Learn-It" Self-Teaching Tools

Written by Benji Moncivaiz

Everyone learns differently. People can learn by observing other people learn - some people love discussions, while others prefer listening to lectures. In actual fact, people learn best when they experience the material through various means - by listening, speaking, reading, and doing.

We are excited to unveil a new collection of curricula: Learn-Its. Learn-its are self-guided resources that provide an integrated introduction to basic mechanical design elements; they bridge the gap between superficial how-tos and super-detailed technical guides. They give students the right vocabulary to ask targeted questions in the workshop and online, while outlining detailed tips and explanations of physical phenomena driving how different mechanisms, tools, materials, and fasteners work. Students are provided with enough information to critically select the right material, adhesive, or tool for their project. The Learn-Its currently take the form of Learn-It videos online and Learn-It boards in the D-Lab workshop and we are excited to continue developing additional Learn-Its and supporting material.

It was surprisingly tricky to immediately identify the depth and breadth of information that should be included in the Learn-Its, so we adopted a "release early, release often" philosophy. We put up our very initial raw prototypes and had students respond to them via note cards and personal conversations - with those comments we improved them, held focus groups, and had additional conversations. Rinse and repeat! Unsurprisingly, as we cycled feedback, new iteration, feedback, new iteration, each Learn-It improved by leaps and bounds. "Thanks!" to the students who were free with their constructive feedback - it was great to work with you!

We'd also like to send a big "Thank you!" to the MIT Alumni Class Funds, whose grant has made this project possible.

Check out the Learn-It "Mechanisms" videos on D-Lab's channel on TechTV and swing by the D-Lab workshop for a closer look at our Learn-It boards.

Dr. Alex Dehgan, Science and Technology Adviser to the Administrator at USAID, to speak at MIT May 13

The Future of Science & Technology in International Development

May 13, 2013, 5:30-8 PM
MIT Building 34-101 or Live Stream

Dr. Alex Dehgan, Science and Technology Adviser to the Administrator and Director at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will speak on "The Future of Science & Technology in International Development" with an introduction by MIT Chancellor Eric Grimson.

The address will be followed by a faculty panel featuring Amos Winter, Amy Smith, Bish Sanyal, Olivier de Weck, Benjamin Linder, Richard Larson and Oscar Mur-Miranda. A discussion and a question and answer session with a Twitter wall streaming comments and questions with the hashtag #DEGHANMIT.

The event is sponsored by the Comprehensive Inititiative on Technology Evaluation (CITE) and the International Development Innovators Network (IDIN). CITE and IDIN are the MIT iniitiatives of USAID's Higher Education Solution Network (HESN). 

Dr. Dehgan will discuss the potential for science and technology to address many of international development's greatest challenges, and how HESN and MIT have the opportunity to be at the forefront of that movement. 

About Dr. Alex Dehgan
As USAID’s chief scientist, Dehgan is the key focal point for implementing the Administrator’s vision to ensure that USAID is the global leader on employing science, technology and creativity to help solve development challenges.

Prior to coming to USAID, Dehgan worked at the Department of State, most recently as a senior scientist and policy adviser to the Secretary of State’s science adviser to the. Dehgan was also a senior adviser to the special adviser for the Gulf and South West Asia, where he developed a science diplomacy engagement strategy with Iran, advised on internal political dynamics, and served as the liaison to the Office of the Special Representative to the President for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Dehgan was the founding Afghanistan country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s  Afghanistan Biodiversity Conservation Program. During his tenure there, Dehgan led the first comprehensive biological surveys of the country in 30 years, wrote many of Afghanistan’s biodiversity conservation legislation and policies, and assisted in the development of Afghanistan’s national park system.

Dehgan holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. from The University of Chicago’s Committee on Evolutionary Biology, a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and B.S. in Zoology and Political Science from Duke University. He was chosen as an “Icon of Science” by Seed Magazine in 2005 and received the World Technology Award for Policy in 2011.

Contact: Nai Kalema (Nai@mit.edu

Top photo: Courtesy USAID
Bottom two photos: Nathan Cooke

Rethink Relief: Looking Beyond Emergencies

From April 14th-20th, D-Lab played host to this year's Rethink Relief conference, a collaboration between MIT's D-Lab and the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering in Delft, Netherlands that is dedicated to the creation of technologies that bridge the gap between short-term relief and long-term sustainable development.

Christiane Kokubo, a participant in this year's conference and a journalist in Brazil, writes about her experience at this year's Rethink Relief - a conference about emergencies that was colored by the unfolding of Boston's own emergency.


And there we were. It was the third day of MIT D-Lab’s Rethink Relief conference, almost 9:30 in the morning, an we were all sitting. In front of us on the table were 4 straws, a sheet of paper, some tape, scissors, three elastic bands, two clips and some blue clay. Amy Smith explained the morning activity and 20 people, from 15 different countries, showed that inspiration can come even before breakfast, before talking to each other or before feeling really awake. “You have 10 minutes to make something useful with what you have in front of you,” Amy said.

What a challenge! Especially when your creation goes to someone else, who will have another five minutes to improve it, before they pass it to the next person, and the next. At the end of the activity, everyone explained the original idea and what happened to it. My crane mobile was improved by three people, including Amy, and came back to my hands much nicer than I could have made it myself in 10 minutes.

RR Brainstorm

A participant reviews the morning's brainstorms

This activity was just a small piece of our week of intense discussion and work during Rethink Relief, which took place from the 14th to the 20th of April. The week saw 20 participants from 15 countries and a wide variety of backgrounds sharing experiences, creativity and stories - contributing to find solutions and to improve ideas.

Our groups were Water, Health, Protection, Economic Empowerment, Education and Energy, each of them with three-four people. Every day, all day long, dialogues in English, Spanish, Hindi, Creole, Dutch, Portuguese, French and Italian could be heard in the room. We were a melting pot of designers, engineers, computer specialists and a journalist, all together thinking about relief solutions for emergency situations.

And how strange was it then, when on the second day of the conference, two bombs exploded 1.6 miles away, and we bore witness to an emergency situation unfolding in front of us? The day before, many of us had gone to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and, as good tourists, had taken pictures of that place that would be in all the world’s papers the next day. Alberto Zerboni, an experienced architect from Doctors Without Borders (MSF), part of the Protection group, would tell me a couple of days later that he had never felt so threatened before, even after more than 12 years working for MSF in the field. He was at the finish line on Monday morning.

Scared as we could be during the week, the work went on. We talked a lot, a lot, a lot. And then, we talked some more.  We laughed and made new good friends. We had participated in activities, we listened to experts, and we shared our own experiences. Our group defined what Protection meant for us, what solutions could lay in design, what kind of problem we were going to target, and what our mission statement was. The five other groups did the same.

We were anxious to talk about our work and accomplishments and to present our prototypes on Friday. And then, another emergency surprised us, now on this side of the Charles River. No subway, bus or taxi services were available. There was no possibility of going back to D-Lab. Authorities recommended that people did not leave their homes.

RR Host Home

Participants prepare final presentations at host family's home

We were lucky enough to find a place on Friday outside of the city where most of us could gather together. Débora Leal, a Brazilian and one of the organizers of the conference, talked to her host family, who kindly opened their house to us. Thanks to the Mallons, we had a place to finish our week’s work. For Saturday, our plans changed once again, and the picnic that had been planned for the beach in Beverly was swapped for a day at D-Lab, where we would all get together to finish our presentations and show the results of our week’s work on emergencies.

I am sure that it was a transforming week for everyone. After leaving D-Lab on Saturday afternoon and saying goodbye to our new friends, we all went back home full of ideas, projects, contacts and good feelings, rethought and relieved. Good things are to come.


A version of this story appears in Folha de S.Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper. You can find that article (in Portuguese) HERE.


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