Chris Colombo, Dean of Student Life

Next time you are using Google, try this search: enter “public service center” into the search box. When I did last week, MIT’s Public Service Center (PSC) was first out of 315,000,000 results.

Impressive results, I’d say, in a world full of service organizations. On the other hand, the PSC get results all over the world, so I can’t say I’m surprised.

Scot Frank ’09, left, and Amy Qian ’11, right, developed a solar project in the Himalayas.

Scot Frank ’09, from left, Catlin Powers, and Amy Qian ’11 developed a solar project pictured here in western China.

If you’re not familiar with the PSC, visit the website. Every year, 3,000 students come to the center to participate in service projects within the United States and all over the world—58 countries over the past five years. That’s a remarkable percentage of our students dedicating their time, energy, and skill to help others.

I had the opportunity in November to hear a presentation by Scot Frank ’09 and Amy Qian ’11, whose PSC project in the Himalayas inspired them to create a start-up nonprofit company, One Earth Designs. One of their first products is the SolSource 3-in-1, a solar-powered device for cooking, heating, and generating electricity.

The SolSource 3-in-1 is a solution that was conceived with the active participation of the local population, so it’s sustainable. And it became a reality with the best MIT has to offer: innovation, inspiration, vision, and entrepreneurship, all in service to a people in need. One Earth Designs now also has projects dedicated to water quality testing, textiles as a source of heat, and science books in local languages.

Not every PSC project evolves with this kind of breadth. A surprising number do, though. I’m not one to get caught up in rankings, but I can’t deny that I’ll enjoy their spot at number one on Google while it lasts.