(IAP ’12) Netia McCray ’13

(This Blog Post is from a Diiaki Brasil participant, Janderson Rocha, who is currently working on his company’s (In Fieri) prototype device which will allow for consumers to undertake underwater activities without the burden of heavy equipment to carry oxygen. The product, called ‘Freedive’, is currently being developed in cooperation with the engineering labs at UFMG-COLTEC in Belo Horizonte, MG, Brasil. Diiaki Brasil is an intensive two week program for rising high school seniors in Belo Horizonte which introduces students to the ‘start-up scene’ while developing critical thinking skills essential to competing in the global marketplace.)

In Fieri (Brenda Suzana, Janderson Rocha, Luiza Lorraine, and Melquisedequi Rodrigues)


Sr. Rocha testing his group’s ‘Plastiki’ called the ‘ApplePeace’ during the Diiaki Brasil program.

The Diiaki program started on the 2nd week of January. Our coordinator, Netia McCray wanted do a project for the students, to help them to join on the Market Work. For this, she did lots of activities, for example, she requested us to do a boat with recyclable materials, to show us how do a necessary thing with few materials in a little time. Later, she requested us to do groups and talk about the theme: “How to help the people after the world’s end, remembering that after the world’s end will not have very resources”. When we finish, we would do a showing of the final product with a business plan (with price, production time, function…) for a group of entrepreneurs.

On the beginning, many people were with your project and good ideas were appearing, however, when the time passed, some students gave up. For this, how an emergency measure, Netia said us to do a Business Plan to show, and the “final product” we would show on July, for the same entrepreneurs (and some most). Now I and some groups (we got more students for the Diiaki, due to withdrawal of other people) are doing our product at the mechanical engineering workshop of UFMG, because after to see our showing, the teacher offered the space to us.

SolidWorks representation of In Fieri’s FreeDive Product

My project is based in the necessity to get food on the deep of the seas, because the surface of earth would be polluted, and too species that we know would be dead. The only place that would be reasonable it’s on the water. Thinking on this, our product is an oxygen charger, to make oxygen to use on the actuality oxygen cylinder. When it finish, the user just recharge your cylinder at home. We intend to use electric energy to recharge, but the recharger also can work with alternative energies.

(Note: If you would like to see In Fieri’s Final Presentation for the Diiaki Brasil, it is available on Youtube)


The New Diiaki-Mexico Program Logo by QHarris Designs  



 Diiaki-Mexico Program: Part III

Diiaki-Mexico participants at ‘Casa Verde’ Pitch Contest

In the previous blog post, I left you all hanging by a thread at the beginning of the second week of the program. Program participants had spent the past weekend brainstorming which ideas they would like to explore and implement in their “Casa Verde” for the Pitch Contest on Friday (January 20, 2012). During the next four days, program participants would be working in TEC de Monterrey’s CDA (Center for Advanced Design) in order to build their prototypes.

Some students very quickly realized that with their very limited budget (300 pesos ~ US$23.61) and limited timeline (only 6 hours in CDA), they were going to have to be very creative with their prototypes in order to win the Pitch Contest.


I would have to say that I was pretty amazed at some of the ideas that were being materialized before my eyes during the course of the week. Houses, Windmills, Water Collection systems, etc. were springing up from everywhere. On Monday evening, I couldn’t have been happier to have seen the enormous progress that the students had made in only 3 hours. Sadly, that evening, I had to prepare myself to depart from Guadalajara, Mexico in order to prepare the program location in Brazil for the Diiaki-Brazil program starting the following week. I doled out many hugs and good lucks to my Diiaki-Mexico babies as I mentally prepared myself for not being able to see their final presentations in person.

Ok, I’m not going to cry again, I am going to take a deep breath and think of the good times that we had together. At least for the sake of this blog post, I am going to take a deep breath and think of the good times.

As I traveled further down the Southern Hemisphere, I kept a close eye on my Diiaki-Mexico babies’ blog posts. I have to say, I gave them very little rules and guidelines as far as what to post and how to post, and yet they met every expectation and then some. The blogs were magnificent and I couldn’t wait for them to post photos of their final product prototypes for the Pitch Contest.

A CAD of Gaian Habitat’s Green Roof

Needless to say, they did not disappoint. The prototypes would put some MIT students to shame, if I do say so myself, and proved that students are capable of extraordinary work if they are given the right support and resources. For example, the winning group, Gaian Habitat , created a green roof that not only collected energy from the sun’s rays to power their home but also collected rainwater for use as the home’s major water supply.


Sitharus BioDigester

Another winner from the Diiaki-Mexico Pitch Contest was the company Sitharus with their winning prototype, the BioDigester. In their own words…

Our idea from the start was to use biomass, since after the world’s apocalypse a lot of dead organic matter would be available, and it would be perfect to give it a use instead of letting it rot in the streets.

We first thought about creating a self-powered oven, and we made the decision to buy a metal sheet. Later, we decided that instead of an oven, it would be better if we made a biodigestor and collect the gas, leaving its use to house designers to decide.“- Sitharus



While I was reviewing the student’s blogs with my cup of black tea, I couldn’t help but smile. Despite all the doubts and worries that had been built up around the program, the students were proving that they could do so much with so little that ‘real’ entrepreneurs had no excuse as to why they couldn’t enter the marketplace. As looked down at my tea cup and read ‘Tecnológico de Monterrey’, I truly felt lucky and blessed to have worked with such a fantastic team. Therefore, I would like to say again a huge thank you to Sr. Randall Coeffie Goedhoop, Srta. José Guitérrez Martínez de Castro, and all TEC de Monterrey for their help in making this program a success!

Ms. McCray, Ms. Ekuta, and Ms. Okuneye.

If you are left a little vague on details about the program, please don’t be. I’m not one to usually, as one diva might say, ‘toot my own horn’. I usually like my work to speak for itself. However, if you are still a little skeptical about if the program took place (or your a believer that everything can be photoshopped), then take a look at this article by MundoTEC, TEC de Monterrey’s Campus Newspaper, about the Diiaki’-Mexico program. Warning: Article is in Spanish! 🙂

As I wrap up my last blog post about the Diiaki-Mexico program, I hope that I will be able to return to TEC de Monterrey in order to re-develop the program curriculum to include new challenges, obstacles, and experiences for participants.

The future may always appear uncertain, but hope is one thing that can make it a little less scary and provide motivation for Mbadika to continue working to inspire youth entrepreneurs around the globe.

Congratulations to the Diiaki-Mexico Pitch Contest Winners!

Group A: Gaian Habitat




Group B: Sitharus





Overall Best Pitch: Epoka Solutions

Plus, don’t forget to explore other Diiaki-Mexico Start-ups…

A Special Thank You to the MIT PSC (Public Service Center) and MIT MISTI Mexico for supporting the Diiaki-Mexico program. This program wouldn’t have been possible without your guidance or support.

Netia 🙂

The Diiaki Mexico Program: Part II

The New Diiaki-Mexico Program Logo by QHarris Designs

So…I said I was going to post within 24 hours about how the Diiaki Mexico program has been going. Well, as you may or may not know, the Diiaki-Mexico program has been over for a good week and here I am talking about how the beginning of the second week went. I am a nerd at heart and let us just say that communication is not my strong suit. However, I have to say that I am doing alot better than I have done in the past where I have let almost 3 months past by without blogging.

I also feel that giving myself some time before I blog allows me to reflect on the important things that occurred that day instead of all the little disasters that occurred. But enough about why I don’t blog more and my other excuses for not writing…you are here because you want to learn about how the program went.

I left you all on the previous blog post at the conclusion of the participants Rapid Prototyping activity, which they were required to research, design, and create a Stirling Engine in only 45 minutes. I left some of you thinking that I work part-time as the Devil’s Advocate. However, I hope the activity that we did on Saturday will change your mind about that.

Participants listening to my

Saturday started off with one little disaster, a logistical one, where were we hosting the Saturday Session of the Diiaki-Mexico program. We had originally been booked for Auditorium #6, however we quickly realized (when caterers started coming into the Auditorium with food and drinks that we didn’t order ourselves for the program) perhaps there was a little misunderstanding. Naturally, thanks to the our superheroes from TEC de Monterrey (Randall and Maria from IEP), we were quickly relocated to another beautiful auditorium with access to a Starbucks Cafe in the Lobby. ☺

We started off the Saturday Session with a my lecture on Social Entrepreneurship. I was able to give my 30 minute discussion in which I try to convince students that they have what it takes to become a social entrepreneur. In summary: As long as you have the passion to see your social venture through obscurity, you will find success. I know that you are probably used to hearing such inspirational sayings from speakers who are paid simply to ‘hype’ the crowd. Trust me, I am not being paid to say this. From my experience, which includes almost 5 years of creating and directing educational outreach programs on a local and international scale, if you are passionate about something there always seems to be some kind of weird miracle that occurs which allows you to pursue your dream.

Enough about inspirational speeches, Ms. Ekuta gave a presentation on how to properly presente yourself for an interview or for a networking event. Following that presentation, where Ms. Ekuta received a wedding proposal from a handsome young lad, Ms. Okuneye instructed the students on how to create and use a PUGH Chart in order to select which ideas they would like to explore in their prototypes and companies.

Students investigating their Samsung Cellphones

Then came the interesting part for the students…the students were given a Samsung QWERTY Cellphone. The Objective? Create an advertising campaign in order to sell this phone to the Mexican Market. Participants were only given 15 minutes in order to prepare a 1-2 min. presentation in front of their peers in order to sell the Samsung Cellphone. Unfortunately, we did not have time (because of the classroom fiasco) to hear all of the presentations, but here is a sneak peek at what some of the program participants came up with (see video below).

I was highly impressed that some groups conducted research on the phone via the Web in order to create a PowerPoint Presentation marketing the cell phone, some made commercials, others created a new brand name and logo in order to launch the phone in the Mexican marketplace.

You may ask, why were they doing this activity? Were you just trying to kill time? Well, my thoughts on the activity were to cement with the students the importance of not only marketing or selling themselves, their ideas, and their companies to Angel Investors but demonstrating your passion for the product. Those who became passionate about this cellphone and the brand Samsung (even though they were not being paid for creating the brand or logo) were the ones with the best presentations. If you are able to portray your passion for something, you can pretty much sell anything.

Students brainstorming Prototype Ideas

In order to end the Saturday Session, we had the students brainstorm in their groups at least 3 ideas they would like their newly founded companies to explore. We were getting all kinds of creative ( and yes sometimes crazy ideas) from program participants. I mean when we told program participants to reach for the stars with their ideas, some took that quite literally. However, as the Saturday Session ended, I started to feel alot calmer about the decision to expand the Diiaki program into Mexico. The smiling faces leaving the auditorium told me that I had made right decision and that perhaps Diiaki-Mexico may have a permanent home here in Guadalajara.

Participants brainstorming Prototype Ideas.

Unfortunately, I started to feel a little sad at the thought that in less than 3 days I would be leaving this program in order to prepare the ground for the Diiaki-Brasil program in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. As we gathered our remaining materials from the Auditorium, I couldn’t help but feel a little proud of my work here in Guadalajara. My only hope is that the program participants could see my passion for innovation and entrepreneurship and would take that with them beyond this program. One can only hope… To Be Continued…


If you would like to see more photos from this Diiaki-Mexico Session…check it out…


The 2012 Diiaki-Mexico Program: Part I (January 19, 2012)

The Diiaki-Mexico 2012 Program Participants 

I apologize for not posting sooner, it seems that my life these past few days have been just a whirlwind of deadlines, presentations, lectures, meetings, and airports. Now that I have a few minutes to myself, I would like to update you all on the Diiaki-Mexico program.

The Diiaki-Mexico launched on January 10, 2012 with over 70 students from TEC Prepa (TEC de Monterrey’s Guadalajara Campus High School), TEC de Monterrey, and local high schools.

The First Day was Orientation for Diiaki-Mexico program participants and was one of those crazy days that when it’s over and your back at your apartment, you collapse on your bed. Why you ask? Well, anyone who has experience running an education outreach program knows that the first day is the most taxing because that seems to be the one day (besides the final day of the program) where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong (Murphy’s Law).

Diiaki-Mexico participants exploring TEC’s CDA

An example? Well, let’s see… there was the Registration of over 70 students in 30 minutes (which really became registering 70 students in an hour). There were some technical difficulties and some problems getting the program participants through the Laboratory Safety Course in order for them to work in the CDA (Center for Advanced Design) workshop at TEC de Monterrey.

Now if you ask me if the first day headache was improved on the second day, my answer would be yes. The students had me dancing around the laboratory once we got them working in their groups on the surprise challenge.

We started by splitting the 75 program participants into Groups (Group A- Tuesday/Thursday, Group B- Monday/Wednesday) in order to decrease the burden on the Laboratory Technicians in assisting and keeping an eye around the workshop (or as Mr. Coeffie Goedhoop, Director of TEC’s IEP, always says ’10 fingers in, 10 fingers out’).  Then Ms. Ekuta carefully went through each group and created 7 more groups for each (Group A and Group B) where the students were arranged based on experience and career interests in order to ensure diverse ideas and opinions in each group.

Ms. Okuneye presenting the ‘Casa Verde’ Challenge to participants

When the student’s arrived for their 2nd Day of the Diiaki-Mexico program they were greeted by my nice and informative lecture on the Design Process. Then, Ms. Okuneye introduced program participants to the ‘Case Verde’ (Green House Challenge) or the Design Challenge for the Diiaki- Mexico Pitch Contest.

Then..the fun began. I presented the students the challenge of constructing a Stirling Engine in 45 minutes with no books, handouts, or materials on what is or how to construct a Stirling Engine (please see the video below for ‘What is a Stirling Engine?’). Needless to say, they were scared at first. How can we do this in 45 minutes with just a few materials and no instructions? Are they crazy? We can’t possibly do this on our own?!

Me helping some Diiaki-Mexico participants develop a Stirling Engine Design

Now, before you call be the Devil Advocate or a Horrible Instructor, I did this for a reason. In the real world, when you are engineering a solution or a product that there may not exist a precedent for, sometimes you are thrown in the water without a lifesaver. However, you quickly realize what tools you will need in order to successfully research the problem and engineer a solution. The students in less than 45 minutes learned more about the engineering process than they did in the 1 hour lecture that I had presented to them earlier.


Diiaki Mexico participants displaying their Scavenger Hunt finds in order to make their Stirling Engine.

They quickly learned how to do problem framing (instead of looking at the entire problem of constructing a Professional Stirling Engine, they looked for constructing a simple Stirling Engine with scrap materials), Research (they were allowed to use the Internet or the knowledge of the Laboratory Techs in order to obtain information concerning the Stirling Engine), Rapid Prototyping (creating a prototype from low cost materials that allows you to test your ideas or processes without requiring a lot of initial capital), and teamwork (this project required that individual team members worked on different aspects of the engine, for example: searching for scrap materials, prototype designs, construction, research, etc., NO ONE could have completed the project without dividing the work among their team members and every member was needed in order to complete the project).

Diiaki-Mexico participants working on their Stirling Engine Design

The Final Result? Almost every team in 45 minutes were either very close to completing the project (if given an extra 15 minutes) or had got their Stirling Engine working (video clip). The participants were able to see that they were not only able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time with little to no help from their instructors, but they were more creative than they thought. As one student told me after class, ‘this was one of the most interesting activities in my life, I kept thinking there is no way that I can make this work and in the end we did it!’. It’s moments like this that bring a tear to my eye. That all the hard work that I have given to this program, along with my colleagues, has led to such an enlightening and joyful experience for this participant.

This was just the Second Day of the program! This day showed me the level of dedication and creativity these participants would bring to the program.

Diiaki Mexico participants finishing their Stirling Engine

In my honest opinion, the creativity and knowledge being displayed by Diiaki-Mexico participants have not only made this one of the most enjoyable programs that I have been apart of, but is easily the smoothest running program I have been a part of, thanks mostly to the help we have received from TEC de Monterrey’s International Engineering Program (IEP) and TEC Prepa Instructors.

I know that this becoming a VERY long Blog Post, so I will post the second part of this blog post tomorrow, so Stay Tuned!

As a special treat, I have included the Blogs of the Diiaki-Mexico Start-ups that have been created during the last 10 days of the program. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, each group is required to create a Start-up (along with a blog which chronicles their start-up journey) and a launch product prototype for their Final Presentations in a Pitch Contest (similar to the MIT $100K Pitch Contest). So check out these Blogs created by Diiaki-Mexico program participants.

Diiaki Mexico 2012 Start-Up Blogs (blogs have been created and are maintained by Diiaki-Mexico 2012 participants):

Interested in more photos from the Diiaki Mexico Rapid Prototyping Activity?

To Be Continued…

Preparation for the Diiaki-Mexico Program: Part I (January 09, 2012)

On this chilly morning in Guadalajara, I am still in amazement that this is really happening. It seems not too long ago I was in my room planning how to start an organization which would help foster innovation throughout the world. At the time, even I thought it was an insane idea to start an international organization. I had just come back from traveling to foreign country for the first time. I hadn’t even visited the West Coast of the United States or Canada. What business do I have trying to create an international organization. I wasn’t like those ‘worldly’ travelers like Anthony Bourdain or even Anderson Cooper. However, 16 months later, here I am expanding the successful Kixibu program that we launched in Belo Horizonte, Brazil this past July into Guadalajara, Mexico. At this moment, I am starting to think that this crazy idea that I thought up (what seems just a few short months ago) may actually work.

Before I start talking about the preparation that me and my team are doing in order to be ready to launch the Diiaki-Mexico program tomorrow, I feel I should give you a brief introduction to who we are and what we do.

Hi! My name is Netia McCray, I am currently a Junior in Course 8 (Physics) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As I mentioned before, several months ago, I started an organization called Mbadika. Mbadika, which means ‘idea’ in Kimbundu (a language in Northern Angola), embodies the entire spirit of our organization. We are an organization interested in increasing relations between international innovators and leaders in various fields (especially in the Hispanophone & Lusophone countries) in order to develop new ideas to tackle the enormous range of problems facing the world today. Everything from the consequences of population, sustainable living, education, hunger, epidemics, natural disasters, and development. This blog, to say it simply, is a blog about ideas and the people who create them.

However, Mbadika is not simply about innovators and the ideas that drive their lives. Mbadika is also an organization which also applies these ideas to the real world through various programs (e.g. Diiaki-Mexico, a youth innovation workshop in collaboration with TEC de Monterrey in Guadalajara, Mexico) that will help develop & foster innovative thinking around the world.

Program participants brainstorming Start-up Ideas

Our first outreach program, Kixibu, was launched in Belo Horizonte, Brazil this past July in collaboration with Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) and MIT MISTI 2.0. Local high school students underwent an intensive 60 hour ‘start-up’ bootcamp, where they were required to launch a ‘start-up’ and a ‘prototype’ in 4 weeks. The program concluded with a ‘Pitch Contest’ in which the student’s ‘start-ups’ would have 5 minutes in order to present their ‘pitch’ to a panel of judges (which included University professors and program sponsors). The winning ‘start-up’, Beech Marken, was awarded a grant in order to continue development of their product, The Healthy Cleaner.


Due to the success of the Kixibu program, I decided that it was about time to expand the program by offering an additional session of the program in Belo Horizonte as well as offer a session in Guadalajara, Mexico in January. Now thanks to a generous grant from the MIT Public Service Center (PSC) and MIT Mexico, here we are! Guadalajara, Mexico! Less than 24 hours until showtime.

However this time around, since I had never been to Mexico, I decided that I would need to turn the Diiaki program from a one woman show into a ensemble performance. Therefore, I would like to introduce the Diiaki-Mexico 2012 Team! Here are my awesome Diiaki-Mexico team members and fellow MIT colleagues, Joy Ekuta and Victoria Okuneye.

Me, Victoria, and Joy at TEC de Monterrey GDL Campus

Victoria practices her Welding Skills

The Diiaki-Mexico team has only been in Guadalajara (GDL) for a little under a week, but already it seems like we have been here for months. In order to prepare for the launch of the Diiaki-Mexico program on Tuesday, we have been running back and forth to business meetings and workshop training sessions in order to prepare to guide the program participants as they start building their start-up companies.

However, I have to say, it has been a real pleasure working with TEC de Monterrey this past few days. Everyone in the Department of Engineering has been really helpful and responsive to our requests and providing helpful advice on how to structure our program in order to be more effective. They ‘guys’ at TEC de Monterrey’s CDA (Centro de Desenho Avanzada/ Center for Advanced Design) have been going above and beyond by showing us how to use all the machines and equipment in CDA in order to help our students design their project prototypes. In my opinion, everyone seems to be going above and beyond on this project and it seems that TEC de Monterrey wants to make this a sustainable project on their Guadalajara Campus between the School of Engineering and High Schools in GDL.

This has been a strange feeling for me, someone wanting to collaborate with you and working with someone who shares your vision, because the amount of resistance that I felt from Belo Horizonte (BH) when I wanted to launch Kixibu last year was enormous. At some points, I came close to pack my things and heading to the airport. However, even in Belo Horizonte this time, the response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive. The only complaint so far is the commute for some program participants.

Such a stark contrast in such a short period of time reminds me of a quote that my father once said to me: ‘Nobody wants to get on a horse drawn cart with only one passenger: the driver.’ Maybe it was the positive response and feedback on the Kixibu program that has allowed this to happen, I don’t know. I am just grateful that this crazy idea that I had a few months ago is growing like Kudzu. I cannot tell you how good it feels to be in a meeting conducted entirely in Spanish and understand what’s going on. All those years of hard work in my language and business courses are paying me back, handsomely.

TEC de Monterrey’s Guadalajara Campus can only be described in one word: GORGEOUS! It makes me even a little bit jealous that MIT’s campus isn’t as modern, open, and hip. However, I also realize that MIT is built to be functional and not fashionable against the Boston weather (well, except for the Stata Building).

I have really enjoyed my time exploring all that TEC de Monterrey has to offer its students and I have to say I am not only blown away, but highly impressed. If MIT is not careful, I may come here for Graduate School (only slightly joking about this, I have actually given it quite some thought since coming here). However, I feel that my ‘Portunhol’ (Spanish and Portuguese, similar to ‘Spanglish’) may hamper my chances of success here in Guadalajara since everyone here thinks that I am Brazilian because my Portuguese accent is so heavy (Note: Just in case if you were wondering if I look Brazilian. I don’t really think I do. I am African American and I believe my looks are a dead giveaway that I am.). Oddly enough, I have had more years of Spanish (approximately 11 years) than Portuguese (1 year).

Me at TEC de Monterrey GDL Campus

A weird cultural aspect in Guadalajara, apparently there are NO girls of African descent. Since the Diiaki-Mexico team is comprised of members from Nigerian and African American descent, we have been garnering ALOT of attention in and around the city. Even a couple of stares and pointing from children. Yesterday, I was in the grocery store and I noticed that this little girl was just staring at me with her mouth gaped open like she just saw BigFoot. I walked over to her and in Spanish asked her what was her name, then I noticed that her parents were talking about what texture was my hair because it looked like wool from a sheep. The little girl, with her doll in hand, handed me the doll and ran behind her father. After her mother calmed her down and explained to her that I only wanted to say hello, she shook my hand and then ran back behind her father. She continued peering at me from behind her father’s legs as I checked out my groceries and left the store. That moment was easily in my Top 10 Weirdest Moments in my life.

Well…now we are so close to showtime and we still have so much to do. I just finished creating the Diiaki-Mexico Program Website last night and I have to say that I am quite satisfied that program participants will find all the information that I have posted on the website useful. I will keep my fingers cross the Diiaki-Mexico program will launch without a hitch tomorrow, but then again as a Physicist, I am aware of Murphy’s Law.

« All Posts