The last few months have been busy ones for Future Scientist. Since April we have completed two major projects: constructing a dam for stream water catchment and the Design for Impact Charla Series and Competition. We constructed the dam for Jacoba Urriola Solis High School in April. In May we focused on our interaction with Nombre de Dios, another community farther up the coast we wish to extend to in the future. In June we connected the dam source to the school to finally provide it potable water as the emergency system in case the town water system doesn’t work as well as began the 11 week charla series. From June 14th to August 23rd we ran the charla series on a weekly basis with the final project competition on the 23rd of August. After the end of the charla series it was time for us to look back on all we had done the past several months, analyze our impact and approach, and regroup for more projects.
Last month the board of directors and I met to discuss all we had done and look ahead to future projects and initiatives. After our conversation, we realized we wanted to re-tailor our focus on our target audience and benefactors. For example, our website and promotional material is all in English. In the near future this will change. We are working on making the website bilingual in order to reach out to our Latin American supporters, donors, and benefactors, not to mention the communities we actively strive to help. It is only natural that we make this change as well, since we have worked so much in Latin America. I have begun writing my Facebook posts in both English and Spanish. We recently filmed video of our work and commentary from students and staff in both English and Spanish. This improvement is to connect us more intimately with the very people we are trying to help, opening the doors for their active participation and collaboration in community projects.
Going off this point, we recently carried out an informal survey to gauge interest in a digital creation space for community projects. We want community members to feel like there is a creative space for their ideas to become reality when confronting problems they wish to solve in their communities. We found that the teachers were more interested in this proposition in order to have a space to share extra material for their classes and in order to bolster classes with other subjects such as sexual education, something that is lacking in Panamanian schools. There are certain impediments to this idea, such as lack of internet infrastructure in Costa Arriba and unequal access to internet among families. We’d also like to do this survey in Nombre de Dios to see if other communities would be interested in this idea.
In this time of restructuring and refocusing on our why and for whom we are working we are coming up with new ideas for impact and new projects to pursue in the coming months, especially for summer when construction is easiest. If our donor community and our followers have any thoughts on suggestions, please feel free to write on the Facebook group page. All ideas are welcome as we look ahead to create a greater influence in the Costa Arriba region of Colón, Panamá.
Los últimos meses nos han mantenido ocupados aquí en Futuro Científico. Desde abril hemos realizado dos proyectos sólidos: la toma de agua de la represa y La serie de charlas de diseño de impacto y competencia. En abril construimos la represa para el Centro Educativo Jacoba Urriola Solís. En mayo nos enfocamos en nuestra interacción con Nombre de Dios, otra comunidad más costa arriba a la que quisiéramos extender en el futuro. En junio conectamos la toma de la represa al colegio para suministrar por fin agua potable como el sistema de emergencia por si el sistema del pueblo se cierre. También comenzamos la serie de charlas de 11 semanas. Del 14 de junio al 23 de agosto realizamos la serie de charlas semanalmente con la competencia del proyecto final el 23 de agosto. Después del fin de la serie de charlas era hora que echáramos una vista hacia atrás a todo lo que habíamos hecho y que reagrupáramos.
El mes pasado la junta directiva y yo tuvimos una reunión para discutir de todo lo que habíamos logrado y mirar hacia adelante a los proyectos y iniciativas futuros. Después de nuestra conversación nos dimos cuenta que queríamos reenfocarnos en nuestro audiencia y beneficiados principales. Por ejemplo, nuestra página web y materia promocional está todo en inglés. En el futuro eso se cambiará. Nosotros estamos trabajando en convertir a la página web a una página bilingüe para alcanzar a nuestros partidarios, donadores, y beneficiados latinoamericanos. Es natural que sirvamos a este demográfico también ya que hemos trabajado tanto en Latinoamérica. Yo he comenzado a escribir mis publicaciones de Facebook en ambos idiomas, el inglés y el español. Recientemente filmamos videos de nuestro trabajo y los comentarios de los estudiantes y docentes sobre nuestro trabajo. Yo hago unos comentarios en inglés y español y los puebleños comparten sus pensamientos también. Esta mejora sirve para conectarnos más íntimamente con la misma gente que estamos tratando de ayudar, abriendo las puertas para su participación y colaboración activa en los proyectos comunitarios.
Siguiendo con este punto llevamos a cabo una encuesta recién para medir el interés de un espacio digital de creación de contenido para proyectos comunitarios. Nosotros queremos que los miembros de la comunidad sienta que hay un espacio creativo para que sus ideas se hagan realidad cuando se enfrentan a los problemas que quieren resolver en sus comunidades. Encontramos que a los docentes les interesaba la propuesta para que pudiesen tener un espacio para compartir contenido extra para sus clases y también para reforzar sus clases con otras materias como la educación sexual, algo que le hace falta al sistema educativo de Panamá. Hay ciertos impedimentos a esta idea, tal como la falta de infraestructura tecnológica en Costa Arriba y acceso desigual al internet entre las familias. Quisiéramos también hacer la encuesta en Nombre de Dios para ver si habría otras comunidades interesadas en la idea.
En esta hora de reestructuración y reenfoque en nuestro porqué y para quién trabajamos estamos generando nuevas ideas para hacer mayor impacto y nuevos proyectos de perseguir en los meses siguientes, especialmente para el verano cuando la construcción es más fácil. Si hay ideas entre nuestra comunidad de donadores y seguidores que se sientan libres de escribírnoslas por nuestra página en Facebook. Sean bienvenidas todas las ideas mientras vemos hacia adelante para tener mayor influencia en la región de Costa Arriba, Colón, Panamá.
In the USA our culture permeates with competition. Most of us grew up with sports being a very integral part of our youth. Many school activities are turned into competitions with 1st, 2nd and 3rd places for best science fair project, highest attendance, summa and cum laude, etc. For US students this often adds a little extra drive and motivation for the student or athlete when participating in their fair or sporting event. We at Future Scientist thought to bring this philosophy to Portobelo to see if the students in Colón would respond in kind. This August we finished the Design For Impact Charla Series and Competition and we were finally able to see the fruits of ours and the students’ labors from the last two and a half months.
It was a busy and exciting month for us in Portobelo. With the last few weeks of the charla series as well as the competition on August 23rd, the students’ ideas were beginning to take form. We came into the month having talked about, generated, and picked ideas for the projects that the students wanted to use as the solution to their problem that had established from the first few weeks. The first charla of the month dealt with the Canvas Business Model. This charla was important in putting the students’ ideas to paper and mapping out what was necessary to make their idea a reality. I pointed out to them that this Business Model could be used beyond the classroom doors and that it is a useful tool for any type of endeavor; be it communal, entrepreneurial, or academic. This tool is also important to seeing how feasible the idea is and to understand what you lack and what you have for the project or start-up. The students worked hard that day drawing up their maps for their projects and I think they gained useful knowledge for inside, and outside, the classroom.
As we got closer to the competition day it was time to begin thinking about more physical models and more serious advances in the development of their projects. The following week was prototyping week. The students whose solutions were more physical built models of their projects. Those who had more service or organizational solutions chose to write storyboards and show how their project would work step by step. I was impressed by the students ability to make these working models with little more than some cardboard, tape, paper, and markers. One group drew a blueprint of an experimental agriculture vehicle to be used by campesinos to plant and harvest more crops more efficiently. The idea was inspired from their agriculture classes and the difficulties they had seen with campesinos and their lack of mobility when planting their crops. Another drew a storyboard about how they will organize the community for weekly trash clean-ups. They illustrated how the community is affected by the constant presence of trash that is thrown in the streets and how it can be easily collected and disposed of properly. The third group made a trash clean-up rewards card to be used in stores and restaurants. The card is much like a punch-out card where for every item purchased and its packaging properly disposed of rewards the user with a sticker or a punch and once a certain amount is accumulated, the user receives a prize or a free item from the store or restaurant. With their prototypes in hand it was time to learn how to sell their ideas and appeal to their audience.
The final week before the competition the students needed to learn how to sell their ideas and to form a solid elevator pitch. They learned the six most important pieces of a good pitch:
They also learned about one of the most useful sales tools in the market: The Golden Circle. This idea comes from Simon Sinek, a now motivational speaker. He argues that people who are inspirational inspire by not selling the “what” but the “why”. They sell their beliefs and personal philosophies, and their products or services are simply an extension of these beliefs and philosophies. The Golden Circle are three inlaying circles. The innermost circle is “why”. Working outward the second circle is “how” and the outermost circle is “what”. He challenges us to begin with “why” and not with “what”. So I challenged the students to do the same. I told them to write down the why, how, and what of their projects and to use that when coming up with their pitches.
Finally the day of competition had arrived. The day before I had brought the school cooks all the food necessary to feed all the participants and judges, and a large portion of the other students in the school. I was hoping the day would go along without a hitch but then the water went out from the Portobelo system. We turned on the emergency dam system we had made but it wasn’t working either. I quickly put on my work clothes and went up to investigate. It turned out that a section of tubing had disconnected and without that water the cooks wouldn’t be able to keep the food going. Luckily I was able to fix it all just in time and the cooks were able to finish lunch. I then rushed to begin the competition. I gathered my judges, one teacher from each degree: agriculture, information technologies, and tourism. The criteria for the judges was the following: level of comprehension of the problem and appropriation, grade of innovation, applicability potential, and effort and motivation. The students arrived with their prototypes and their pitches and so we began. Each of the three groups went and presented their projects. As they presented the judges graded them according to the criteria given with numerical values from 1-10, with comments in each criteria section. After careful deliberation the judges chose the group with the weekly community trash clean-ups. As the winners, the four students won a trip to Panama City to participate in a weekend science fair put on by SENACYT (Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología) called Feria del Ingenio Juvenil (Fair of the Young Genius). They will spend a weekend in the five star hotel where the fair will be held and will present a science project of their choosing, whether it be a new project or the one they worked on for the 11 weeks of the Charla Series. At the end of the competition and the winner announcement I handed out completion certificates to the students who had attended the majority of the charlas. And with that the 11 weeks of our first Design for Impact Charla Series and Competition was over. We have begun looking for more opportunities to continue doing the series in other locations and with other audiences.
This September and October Future Scientist will be doing some self-analysis of who we want to connect with and how. We are beginning a refocus of the mediums through which we want to connect with our two audiences, our donors and the people we are trying to help. We will be assessing potential future projects outside of Portobelo as well as potential future collaborators. We will be investigating becoming a legitimate legal entity in Panama so that our collaboration can be more united with Panamanian institutions. Stay tuned for updates in the weeks to come!