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Development Initiative wins Lemelson Grant

The Lemelson Foundation has awarded the MIT International Development Initiative (IDI) a grant of $650,000 to support opportunities for MIT students to work on sustainable solutions to problems faced by community groups in the developing world.

IDI is a joint program of MIT's Edgerton Center and the Public Service Center; its mission is to expand opportunities at MIT for student work in international development.

Students will work in collaboration with the Lemelson Recognition and Mentoring Programs, known as RAMPs, located in India, Indonesia, and Latin America.

Current and ongoing IDI programs provide opportunities for MIT students to travel to developing countries, work with partner organizations to identify needs and design challenges, and develop technologies that address these issues. These include D-Lab, a year-long series of classes and field trips focusing on technical, social and cultural aspects of development work in such countries as Brazil, Haiti, Honduras and India, and the IDEAS Competition, a competitive challenge for teamwork and creativity as it encourages students to develop innovative solutions to address community needs.

The University to University (U2U) program forms interdisciplinary student teams among member universities to promote community-based research and participatory development.

The MIT Public Service Center has also granted individual fellowships to students for summer projects. In summer 2007, twenty-five MIT Public Service Fellows will be working in locations as near as Boston and as far away as the Republic of Uganda in East Africa.

Public Service Fellows and their projects include Alexa Mills, a graduate student in urban studies and planning, who plans to create a program for victims of domestic violence in Boston; Anna Livia Brand, a graduate student in urban studies and planning, who is working in New Orleans with the Broadmoor Development Corporation to assist the community in redevelopment; and Froylan Sifuentes, a junior in chemical engineering, who is in Tecpaco, Mexico, helping to implement a reforestation and tree nursery plan that he hopes will lead to improved environmental sustainability and water access.

A group of PSC Fellows - sophomore Tish Scolnick, sophomore Wenxian Hong and junior Mario Bollini, all in mechanical engineering, and Shirley Fung (SB 2007) -- will spend the summer in Tanzania to enhance the work of local disabled craftsmen who build and sell wheelchairs for other disabled people. Scolnick and Hong will implement their design for a folding tricycle wheelchair; Bollini will work on hand tricycle biomechanics and ergonomics to make existing hand tricycle designs more durable, less expensive, more powerful and less tiring; and Fung will help several local workshops to develop a marketing campaign to help them become more accessible, successful and sustainable.

To find out more details about each Public Service Fellow and their progress during this summer, email Alison Hynd, IDEAS Competition and Fellowships Coordinator, at

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