(IAP ’12) Joy Ekuta ’13

Third Blog-1.20.12: The End

After 3 weeks of preparation and hard-work…the project has been completed!

During the second week of the program, the students were to:

1.) Complete the designs of their prototypes:

As before, we had the students complete drawings of their prototypes and run each design by us before building. As time to build in the lab was limited (6 hours per group!), we wanted to make sure that the students would not be wasting time nor materials for beginning. In addition, in order to completing everything we asked of them each team member would have to focus on a different area-the planning, the blog, the final presentation, and the actual building….

2.) Build the prototype:

In 6 hours (in addition to whatever time the students decided to come in), the students were to construct a full–and hopefully working prototype! There was a range of projects using wind power and dynamos-that worked! As well as a number that  used solar power through the SODIS Method to both purify and heat the water. Considering the students had very little background knowledge on any of these methods nor techniques, it was quite impressive to see how far the research went from an idea to a tangible product.

4.) Present the Final Product:

In order to practice the business portion of what they learned, the students were required to present their final products in a Pitch Contest to thirteen companies that we invited–including Dell, Intel, Continental, and many more.  The companies evaluated the students based off the presentation given, as well as the project the students came up with. Rather than just leave that to be the end of things, the students had the opportunity to network with the companies on an informal Networking Event to start forming relationships with the companies.

5.) Networking Event

While the companies did not offer internships to the students, as it isn’t custom to in Mexico, they had a chance to start talking with the students about opportunities they could have in industry, as well as to see other companies they might not have run by. In addition, the companies had the students name, giving them access to a listing of students who would be open to opportunity.

In the end, I believe this project went successfully. After seeing the potential the students had to complete a project in two weeks, the school expressed interest in repeating an extended version of the program for the summer time in which the students would be able to focus more attention towards the projects. From talking to the students, many of them had not exposed yet to more hands-on projects such as these, so they felt that the program was a good introduction to that. In addition, many students expressed to me that what they found most inspirational was that while we were the same age, we had a great personal drive to implement such a large project. From this project, I learned that if I have an idea, all it takes is a little bit of passion and drive to make it a reality.

A big thanks to the PSC for supporting me in this project!

Second Blog-1.14.11: The Halfway Point

I have now reached the halfway point of everything:

-The second week completed of my four weeks here
-The first week completed of the two week program

So maybe not everything–but mostly so!

I would like to give you a full rundown of everything that has happened during our time here–because it’s been truly amazing.

If you saw from my previous post, the first week of our time in Mexico was to settle all the logisitics, see the room, go through training–a.k.a. everything before the program.

But alas–we have started!

January 10th, 2012, we found ourselves waiting in anticipation for all the students to come and register for the program. Only then would we finally see how many students had decided to participate in this pilot program. The first day was supposed to go from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. We figured our personal registration and sign-in would take about 15-30 minutes to complete. After the first student arrived at 2:30 p.m., students continued to trickle in. By 3:45 p.m., we had 77 students registered in the system and were ready to begin the program!

With shorter time than we planned for, we gave an overview of the program and it’s ideals to the students, as well as a complete breakdown of what they would be doing for the program. Directly following, we gave a lecture with background information on the three major sources of renewable energy: Wind Energy, Biomass, and Solar Power. Being a team of 3, each of us gave a lecture on a specific section. My section was on Biomass, which allowed me to teach the students from a more chemical standpoint, which is one of my strong points.

After having the students all together on the first day, we had the students start in their rotation for the rest of the week. The first group, meeting on Mondays/Wednesdays consisted of freshmen from the University, as well as Prepa students from the area. The first day we had their group, was set aside to have them start the hands-on portion of the program in Rapid Prototyping. After going a quick lesson on market research, the students were given the bare mininum of materials to build a Stirling Engine:

Of course, the catch of the prototyping–the students had to put the lesson into practice and figure out what a Stirling Engine was, what other materials they would need to make it, where they would find those materials on campus, and how they would get all of this done–in an hour!

Much to our surprise though, one group was able to finish the project completely. Below is a video of their functioning engine:


The second group of students we have–on tuesdays/thursdays–is a group of students from the Prepa at Tec de Monterrey. We gave them the same tasks to complete. No groups were able to construct the Stirling Engine as with the other group, but I believe they learned a lot about the pace of the program.

Afterwards, we had each of the students create a blog of their experience. Here are the links to the blogs connected to the program:


Saturday, we gave the students a quick rundown lesson how to make a start-up coming. We taught on the importance of having Angel Investors vs. Venture Capitalists, How to Network, and the beneficial uses of having a PUGH Chart to plot out ideas.

Afterwards, the students had time to brainstorm what kind of prototypes they would like to make for their final projects. In a nutshell, the Mayan calendar’s prediction of the end of the world in 2012 has happened, and the students must create a green house. In this house, everything has to work off of renewable energy. For the project, though, the students only need to build one of the structures in the house, design another one, and construct a small model of their green house.

Throughout the program, we act as facilitators to the students not only providing them with information and resources, but challenging all the ideas they present us with, to make sure their final product will be investment-worthy.

And that brings us to the halfway point! For the rest of the program, the students must complete their prototypes, and present to us, as well as 12 local companies in a Pitch Contest to demonstrate all the components they have learned from the program.

A lot of work has been put into the program, but we’re excited to see the final outcome of all the students hard work!

First Blog-1.9.11: Estamos Aqui!

As a first post, I think it’s good to let you know–we have landed safely in Guadalajara, Mexico!

My name is Joy Ekuta, and I’m a current junior in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. I’m here doing a program with my team members, Netia McCray and Victoria Okuneye. The program we have started–Diiaki–is a program designed to harness the design, engineering, and innovative skills of the students here. We will be working with the students for two weeks, instructing them on different renewable energy sources. Afterwards, they will placed in groups and have the opportunity to create an idea and prototype for a new product that would help solve on of the problems that currently exists in the community. In addition, they will receive lessons on how they would be able to go outside the program and create a new start-up business from their new product.

Not the typical thought that comes to your head for a Brain and Cognitive Sciences student, correct? Well, I will start of by telling you that this is my second time in Guadalajara, Mexico. I spent this past summer at Continental Automotivas as an Algorithms Engineer, and had the opportunity to really learn a bit about both programming and engineering by getting to apply the basic things I had learned.

One thing I noticed while working here from people I live with in the house, as well as my colleagues at work, was that most people who went into engineering aimed only to work for the big name engineering firms. The way the schooling system works here, you get a degree in “ingeniero” (engineering) or “licentura” (everything else). Once you’re on track, you don’t really cross over with the other side. Therefore, you become really specialized in one field. For this reason, even if someone has a cool technical idea they would like to start, they don’t have too any of the business skills to start it. Oh, that and start-up companies aren’t looked upon very highly here. Being a student at a place like MIT has definitely shown me just how helpful start-up companies can be. That being said, once my partner Netia explained to me a bit of her vision for Diiaki, I decided it was an idea I wanted to expand to Mexico.

I believe that the best way to learn anything,  is through experience. And for you to have experience, you need time. So helping you guys turn your creative dreams into a reality, we hope that you will gain the necessary skills to take your projects to the next step. If you start these things at a young age, you have plenty of time left in your future to apply the lessons learned from your different experiences, to make any dream you have come true.

And that’s what motivated me to put in the work to get here to start something like this. But now that we’re here, a semester’s worth of work is about to be put into trial mode!

We landed on Monday night, and have been hard at work since then to start preparing for the program here. By preparing, I mean that we have been visiting the campus many times (which is a “fun” hour busride away).The campus is absolutely beautiful, though! Everything is so green, with plenty of fresh air, and an actual Starbucks store on campus! Not a campus-sized site either, but an actual location. It’ll be nice working in such a new, student-filled environment for the beginning of the semester.

We’ve made a bunch of changes to the curriculum–but I think it’s set now! As part of the curriculum, we have the students doing a lot of hands-on projects in an Industrial Lab. This means that all the students have to go through a safety training, to make sure they are cleared for using all the machines to create their prototypes. Since we will be supervising the students, we had to go through our own bit of safety training. I haven’t been able to do a machine lab since middle school, but this reminded me why I became interested in engineering! You can check out a few of our lab-work pictures here!

It was exciting working in the shop! I’m getting excited to help the students plan out ideas for using the products with the machines. Here’s to seeing great finished products!

The program starts on Monday, so we’re trying to tie up loose ends at the school and with the program. It seems crazy that time is winding down now and we’re about to fully begin. We won’t know until Tuesday exactly how many students we will have, but I’m hoping and expecting for a good turn out!

Once the program starts, I’m sure we’ll have more details. Outside of work, we’ve had an opportunity to do a “Mexican” things as well. This being my second time here, it’s been a lot easier to navigate myself around, and enjoy getting to know other parts of the culture. We’ve definitely been able to have some Mexican food:

Not Tex-Mex…Mexican food!

On the 6th, it was one of the celebration days of Rosca de Reyes! What they do, is make a ring of bread with dried fruit, and then they hide plastic baby jesus figurines inside. If you bite your bread and it has a figurine, you have to make tamales on February 2nd.

So not only are we getting to work with the students–but we’re also getting to learn more about the culture ourselves!

We start the first day of the program tomorrow, so here’s to hoping it goes well!

And as my way of greeting in Mexico–Saludos!

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