Monday, June 30, 2008

D Day (-14) - Little Details, Big Picture

The planning of IDDS 2008 has been underway for months at this stage, most likely since the moment last years participants flew back to their home countries. But today, for myself and for most of the other organizers, our IDDS Summer really began. We met in room 16-168, a place where I imagine we will be spending a lot of time over the next two weeks, and once the introductions were over it was down to business. The bulk of the organizers this year are past participants from last year's conference and as such have big ideas about what they think can be accomplished from this year. All of the participants to whom I have spoken viewed last year's summit as a wholly positive experience and are delighted to be back once again in the illustrious environs of MIT.

Although all of the participants recounted positive stories from their experience in 2007 it was extremely interesting to note the differences in how people had benefited. Miguel Chavez, a mechanical engineering student in the University of Sao Paulo, was impressed by how strong the will was among many people in developed countries to implement change in developing countries, something he felt was perhaps lacking in his native Brazil. Tombo Banda, a Malawian born recent graduate from Imperial college in London, echoed this sentiment. She described the interest shown by students from MIT, Caltech and other American universities in problems affecting people in the third world as "eye opening". However, Amit Gandhi, a third year student at Caltech, was hugely impressed by how practically participants from developing countries approached the workshops and felt there was a lot that could be learned from them. Miguel also listed the huge range of contacts that IDDS opened up to him and he talked in particular about EWB(Engineers Without Borders) by saying that with so many members around the world "if you have a problem, someone will know how to fix it!". The dissemination of information is surely one of the main aims of IDDS and on this evidence it is completing this objective in at least some respects.

Anyway, back to the meeting. The team of organizers, under the watchful but twinkling eyes of our commander-in-chief Amy Smith, set about dividing and prioritising tasks for the next few days as we realised that we needed to move quickly on quite a few things. Discussion ranged from broader issues, like making IDDS more environmentally sustainable, to the minutest detail such as figuring out who could drive so that participants wouldn't be left stranded at Logan International Airport! Thankfully Amit volunteered...

Amy then took us on a tour of where the events during IDDS 2008 would be held. Amy mentioned that while this year the conference would be more spread around the buildings and would be less localized than last year she was more than happy to sacrifice this for the ultimate premium, "space!". She then took us to visit the acclaimed D-Lab Workshop(the D stands for Design, Development and Dissemination) and showed us some of the tools the participants would be getting their hands on at this years conference. Two of last year's participants from Ghana, Crossman Hormenoo and John Quansah, plan to recreate a small workshop, based on those within their home country, within the environs of D-Lab and their excitement at being back again in the technology crammed workshop was easy to see. Next on the agenda was the cleaning and ordering of D-lab, a mammoth task at the best of times, but thankfully that was scheduled for later in the week. We then broke for the day and we each went about our various tasks and responsibilities. I did, at one point, overhear a particularly wacky meeting about an extremely interesting idea for an ice breaker session but I guess I can't spill the beans on that one just yet...

That's all from me for today, will update the page on a day to day basis now for the next forty or so days so please feel free to leave comments as everyone involved is eager for as much feedback as possible! I have just remembered I haven't introduced myself yet...My name is Niall Walsh, a third year English student from Trinity College Dublin, and to be perfectly honest, I am just delighted to be here.


Fernanda said...

Hey! The blog idea was great! It will help people like me the enjoyed a lot the first IDDS to enjoy this one too.
I hope you all have a great time!


Pipa said...

Niall -- Hi. I am the author of this piece about the D-labfor CSM.

I will be there to cover the IDDS as well. see you there/sooner.