Project: Creative and Entrepreneurial Capacity Building in a Constrained Environment
Dr. Pasek is an engineering professor, but his interests tend to explore boundaries with other disciplines, such as health care, education or creative thinking. For the past 7 years he has been teaching a 2nd year course on Engineering Management and Globalization, which offers students a panoramic view of activities related to product development; basics of entrepreneurship are an essential element of it. For the past three years he has teamed up with Dr. Francine Schlosser, who now brings her business students to his class for joint student projects. “While this approach is experimental, we both noticed that interesting things happen among students in these business/engineering collaborations,” says Pasek, “and they start to communicate, even though initially they speak different languages.”
While the main course focus stays on the global consumer product development, students occasionally also show interest in starting projects aiming for social impact. “I am then directing them to some web resources like Appropedia, but I feel it is not enough. Eventually I would like to weave in this theme into my class”, says Pasek. So when he learned last year about the Teachers for Tanzania project running in the Faculty of Education for the past 10 years, he quickly made a connection, thinking that perhaps it may help to offer some engineering assistance. As it turns out such needs often overwhelm education students who spent time in Tanzania. “When thinking about what we can do, I thought there is perhaps a way to leverage local resources, in particular the brainpower. We should not bring our solutions with us (as is often the case), but rather assist the local population in developing confidence that they can do many things themselves,” he emphasizes. “How that can be done is still an open question, but I would like to approach it from the post-colonial perspective: there is a lot of unexplored potential we can tap.” according to Pasek. Some inspiring examples exist, like home-grown inventor William Kamkwamba (aka, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) from neighboring Malawi, builder of wind turbines.
“I have to admit that I did not know much about Tanzania beyond the movies like The African Queen or The Snows of Kilimanjaro, but I am now fast educating myself. Tanzania is one of the poorest in Africa, but has also unbelievable natural resources that are beginning to be explored,” says Pasek. It did not hurt that one of the students in his class is from Tanzania and has joined him in the EPICEntre’s project. Evelyn Ntake, now a 3rd year engineering student, supports the project wholeheartedly: “This effort is not only close to my heart, but also is very important due to the long-term impact it may have. Tanzania is a country still aiming for development and there is only so much the government can achieve. Thus the people there need to do things or get support/ guidance for things/ activities they can do themselves, instead of waiting for the government to provide.” Under Dr. Pasek’s guidance Evelyn is mapping existing solutions that address the most pressing needs; many NGO organizations are willing to share their experiences and solutions that work in low-tech environments.
The long-term aim of this effort is to collaborate with Teachers for Tanzania project, run by Faculty of Education, and develop a complementary program that encourages and trains people to develop technologies that improve health and safety, save labor and time, and eventually generate income. The concept intertwines the ideas of frugal innovation, essentials of design process and combines them with principles of participatory co-creation and community-sourcing. These elements will be the foundation of hands-on curriculum accessible at any educational level, intended to increase local creative capacity and support local innovation in Tanzania.
Teachers for Tanzania: https://www.uwindsor.ca/education/245/teachers-tanzania-2015
How I built a windmill (TED talk by William Kamkwamba): https://www.ted.com/talks/william_kamkwamba_on_building_a_windmill?language=en