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GCSP: Engineering For Humanity

My Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) work has focused around the area of Joy of Living. As an engineer, my goal is to mitigate challenges in people’s lives wherever possible. This can be seen throughout my projects, especially the service learning ones. The projects “Retrieving Dropped Papers” and “Rising in the Morning” were to help an older adult living in her own home with daily challenges while “Hacking Prosthetics” was to help a local engineer born with one arm and frustrated with commercial prosthetics explore the space of designing upper arm prosthetics for both comfort and function. These projects were in the design-for-one space. On a larger scale, “Creating Test Apparatus” was helping design an affordable cassava grater for rural use in Ghana. While I did not have the chance to visit the locations in Ghana where the graters are being used, I was able to visit Tanzania as part of the International Design and Development Summit and talk to people from many African countries about how they use Cassava in many different ways. These smaller projects primed me perfectly to begin my senior capstone project; designing a “Multi-Modal Medical Imaging” system with four teammates. The best description of my role in the project was jack-of-all-trades. I worked in basically every disciple that was needed from mechanical engineering to electrical to material science to medical regulations and more. The Olin curriculum is designed to prepare us for this type of interdisciplinary work from the first semester. In the first semester we learn about mechanical design, programming, and circuits. The range expands from there. I’ve taken classes in material science, physics, mechatronics, design, entrepreneurship, anthropology, and machining to name a few. Entrepreneurship is an interesting subject at a school where things are always being created. For example, the Design-for-One projects I did, maybe they could be expanded and sold or maybe it’s possible to run a company that makes custom solutions. While I was doing research on the cassava grater, its real home is in a class called Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurship is a planned and crucial component. As part of my humanities credit, a classmate and I did an Independent Study in chainsaw carving. After our pieces were made, we were approached by two different people offering to purchase our work. It had not even crossed our minds that we were doing something people would want to buy, we were just doing it because we wanted to learn a new skill and have fun in the process. While the projects I have undertaken while at Olin are in very different spaces, they have a unifying theme: mitigate challenges for others. To see the projects mentioned and more, please visit their pages.