Student finds inspiration at international entrepreneurship lab

August 31, 2012

Arizona State University engineering student Mark Huerta was among a select group of university students from around the world to recently get an immersive introduction to social entrepreneurship from prominent entrepreneurs and investors.

Huerta, a biomedical engineering major in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, joined 19 fellow students from 14 countries – including Australia and countries in South America, Europe, Asia and Africa – at the Summer Social Innovation Lab. Team 33 Buckets Download Full Image

The students were invited to the three-week gathering at an oceanfront retreat in Massachusetts as a result of their participation in the 2012 Dell Social Innovation Challenge earlier this year.

Sponsored by Dell, the major computer technology corporation, the competition brings together teams of students developing entrepreneurial projects focused on improving the quality of life.

Huerta is a member of 33 Buckets, a team of ASU engineering students that emerged from the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program in the Schools of Engineering.

Team 33 Buckets finished as the top undergraduate team in the Dell Challenge for its project to develop a water-filtering system for a girls’ school in a rural area of Bangladesh.

The system is designed to help provide safe water for the girls and provide the school a source of income from selling surplus decontaminated water in their village.

The idea earned 33 Buckets a $5,000 prize, computers and a camera – and a scholarship for Huerta to attend the Social Innovation Lab.

The lab featured presentations by guest lecturers and one-one-one sessions with more than 40 business and entrepreneurship mentors.  There were team-building exercises and workshops focusing on a variety of skill-building themes.

Scott Sherman from the University of California, Los Angeles, led a workshop on effective methods of entrepreneurship. Kate Canales, an accomplished product designer, researcher and project strategist, led a workshop on design principles and strategies.

A workshop on business-plan development was presented by Peter Frumkin, a professor and director of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Students were able to learn from leading social entrepreneurs such as Cosmo Fujiyama, one of the lab’s coordinators, who helped start a well-known nonprofit that organized young people to help combat poverty in Honduras. She later joined the New York University Wagner School of Public Service to focus on developing models for youth entrepreneurship and training the next generation of social innovation leaders.

Huerta was fortunate to meet another accomplished social entrepreneur, Gemma Bolos, a Filipina-American teacher who is leading efforts to develop systems to provide safe water at low costs in developing countries – much like the 33 Buckets project.

Near the end of the lab program, students gave presentations on their project to a group of investors from across the country. The investors provided students with advice on how to improve the effectiveness of their projects.

Bulos advised Huerta that 33 Buckets should educate residents of the village in Bangladesh about sanitation and hygiene to help improve their lives beyond offering only the immediate solution provided by the team’s water-filtering system. She talked to Huerta about implementing a 33 Buckets business plan and provided him with educational materials to share with the girls at the school the next time the team visits Bangladesh.

“The mentorship and networking I got out of this lab are great resources. Everyone was so motivated and hard-working. They had a genuine, positive energy and passion that was contagious and inspirational,” Huerta says.

“The most important part of the experience was learning from the other students,” he says. “After the first three or four days, we knew each other really well. It was so much fun to hang out and learn about the other students and their different cultures.”

Written by Joe Kullman and Natalie Pierce

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Berman's new book: 'Politics, Labor and the War on Big Business, Arizona 1890-1920'

August 31, 2012

"Politics, Labor and the War on Big Business, Arizona 1890-1920" is the latest book about Arizona's framework of modern times written by David R. Berman, senior research fellow at Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

Berman will be signing copies of his new book from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Sept. 6, at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Drive in Tempe. Download Full Image

In his book, Berman details the rise, fall and impact of the anti-corporate reform effort in Arizona during the Progressive reform era. In the late 19th century, Arizona's anti-corporate reformers – led by George W. P. Hunt, progressive Democrats, organized labor, third parties and Socialist activists – called for changes to ward off political corruption and promote the interests of working people. Powerful railroad and mining corporations retaliated, and sometimes violent conflict shook the political and industrial sectors. Berman places Arizona's experiences in a larger historical discussion of reform activity.

Berman has produced eight books, including university press studies on Arizona government and politics, and over 70 published papers, book chapters or referred articles dealing mostly with state and local politics in the United States. He specializes in the areas of intergovernmental relations and state and local government, politics and public policy.

Berman is professor emeritus of political Science at Arizona State University.

Q & A with David R. Berman

Q: Your new book looks at the rise, fall and impact of the anti-corporate reform effort in Arizona during the Progressive reform era, roughly 1890 to1920. Do you think Arizonans today will be surprised by the politics of that time, which many perhaps accurately would call “liberal”?

A: Many people think of Arizona as a hotbed of conservatism and would be surprised to learn of its progressive heritage. One hundred years ago Arizona came into the union as one of the most progressive states in the nation.  The Arizona Constitution reflects that heritage.

Q: For at least part of your research for this new book, you looked through previously unexamined archival files. Did you feel you had found buried treasure, since not much has been written about these formative years leading up to and less than a decade past 1912 statehood?

A: It took a good dealing of digging but I found gems in various archives around the state. Finding them was sometimes very serendipitous – found all kinds of things I wasn’t looking for. I’m very thankful to a number or archivists who came to my aid.

Q: In Arizona’s early days, corporations were courted to come to the Arizona territory and do business. Then, in the 1890s, corporations were suddenly viewed by many in the populist movement as "beasts" that exploited the wealth of this sparsely settled area. What caused the change?

A: The case that built up against the corporations by the Populists in the 1890s focused largely on the railroads for using their monopoly over services to change high rates, not paying their share of taxes, being unfair to workers (especially after the Pullman Strike), and corrupting the government. Large mining corporations became targeted for similar reasons. The lesson: be careful what you wish for.

Q: During the Progressive period, Arizona’s anti-corporate reformers condemned the giant corporations for mistreating workers, farmers, ranchers and small-business people, and for corrupting the political system. Couldn’t the same thing be said today, in Arizona’s Centennial year, with big companies elbowing out small businesses and exploiting a tight job market with low pay and few benefits?

A: Many of the “big business” economic and political issues discussed in the book are highly salient today – the Populist/Progressive period in Arizona and elsewhere was one in which they first surfaced. Corporate greed, then as now, was a major underlying issue.

Q: Governor George W P Hunt and progressive Democrats led the charge to ward off corporate control of the political system, increase corporate taxation and regulation, and protect and promote the interests of working people. They were backed by organized labor, third parties, and Socialist activists. Is such a movement forever gone in Arizona, or could the independent voter movement and an emerging Latino voting power affect our state’s future on such issues – or is that a stretch?

A: There are forces for change in contemporary Arizona – discontent with the major parties (as reflected in the growth of the number of people who identify as independents), the growth in Latino voting power, and longstanding sentiment to modify the political system (most recently illustrated by the top-two primary drive, but also in recent years by clean elections, term limits and other proposals). But pulling this all together into a movement is another thing. The political reform experience I’ve written about offers some hope by suggesting that reform-minded coalitions can be put together and, in spite of the opposition of powerful targeted groups, bring about meaningful change.