Patrick Henry Winston 65, SM 67, PhD 70

Earthquake destruction in Haiti.

Damage in Haiti.

I experienced an earthquake once, high up in a Tokyo hotel. It scared me—really, really scared me—but the next morning, when I expected everyone to be talking about the earthquake, I heard not a word. Frightening as it was to me, the magnitude was too small be a topic worth raising.

So I should have thought more about the horror of Tuesday, 12 January 2010, when a real earthquake, magnitude 7.0, hit near Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Then, less than two months later, 27 February 2010, a magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit near Concepcion, Chile,

It becomes terrifyingly real when you realize you have colleagues and students from those places, and you learn you can’t be from there without having lost somebody.

My good friend and colleague, Michel DeGraff is from Haiti. My good friend and student, Daniel Rosenberg, is from Chile. So I sent a little money to MIT sites set up for Haitian and Chilean donations. I sent small amounts, but I know about superposition, and I know a lot of small amounts can make a big pile.

Michel has just returned from Haiti. He has several suggestions for donations. Daniel suggests you give via a site set up by MIT and Harvard students that takes you to site set up by MIT for helping Chile.

Or ask one of your friends where they think your donation can do the most good.


Kendra Johnson with residents of Santa Ana.

Kendra Johnson with residents of Santa Ana.

Guest blogger: Kendra Johnson ’09

As a Public Service Fellow, Kendra Johnson ’09 undertook a big project—establishing family-size rainwater collection systems in indigenous communities in the rain forest of Ecuador. Today she’s a medical student in San Francisco but she recently revisited the area to check on progress at the original village and nearby sites where MIT students and local residents are installing the system.

Here’s an excerpt from Johnson’s blog about her recent trip back to Ecuador:

“The community water system is still working. It is not textbook perfect, but they know about the problems and how to solve them, and that means my role is to step back and let Santa Ana handle these challenges for themselves….

“We also repeated a house to house health survey and found that the reported number of times a child had diarrhea in a year dropped from an average of 6.9 to 1.9 times per year from before our intervention, which is quite promising….”

“The most exciting part of all is that the new mayor has made water her top priority for the next 5 years. Two communities have asked for Santa Ana’s help to apply to her for funding for the tanks, and they have both gotten tanks and are working with Santa Ana’s water technical team to do the installations. How amazing is that?”

Johnson’s blog, such stuff as dreams are made of, documents the water project,  Sachu Yaku; her semester in Cuba; and her new life in medical school. Or you can read only the Sachu Yaku posts that describe the early stages of the project.

Interested? The Public Service Center is looking for MIT students to continue the project this summer.

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.

Tish Scolnik '10 working in Tanzania.

Tish Scolnik '10 working in Tanzania.

Glamour Magazine named Tish Scolnik as one of their Top 10 College Women (video), recognizing her work on mobility issues for the disabled, in the October issue. As a Public Service Center Fellow, Tish has traveled to Africa three times working with wheelchair workshops. Tish designed a three-wheel folding “small-business wheelchair” and five have since been built. Tish is also a member of the Leveraged Freedom Chair team, which designed a long-distance, lever-powered wheelchair that can traverse rugged terrain. Tish is also working with one of her community partners in Tanzania to build a new wheelchair workshop and skills training center.

Tish has helped four disabled entrepreneurs to start small businesses in Tanzania. These pilot entrepreneurs, emplower with their new wheelchairs, began by selling batik and bead jewelry, fixing small electrical goods, and repairing shoes. The shoe repair man has used some of his business profits to help two other disabled entrepreneurs to set-up shoe-shining businesses close to his stall.

The MIT Faculty Newsletter is stretching its editorial wings, directing its content toward the Obama administration as well as the campus community. The Special Edition: Science and Technology for the Twenty-First Century, published this summer, was addressed to President Obama and distributed to members of Congress. Now the editorial team hopes for comments and future articles from faculty and alumni.

Energy Demand

Energy demand is a national issue.

The special issue praises administration moves such as the appointment of scientists to the cabinet, channeling stimulus funding to research and development, and eliminating barriers to stem cell research. Here are a few of the faculty topics:

• A new slant on taxing fossil fuels that redistributes monies to energy-conscious users.

• Redesigning buildings, which consume 40 percent of the primary energy.

• 21st century uses of mobile phones as catalysts for global economic growth.

• Defining whether the economic crisis was caused by a few rotten apples or a rotten barrel.

In the next issue, you can expect to find articles on biomedical research, chemistry and chemical engineering, science education, and social aspects of globalization. And maybe your article. Alumni comments and articles about these and other topics are welcome. Email the managing editor at

Talking books used in Ghana's schools.

Talking books used in Ghana's schools.

Good intentions rarely change the world, but today with a click of the mouse you can take action. The creator of Gmail and Adsense at Google is pledging to give money to deserving nonprofits based on online voting by supporters. At top contender is Literacy Bridge, an all-volunteer nonprofit started by MIT alumni, which is using hand-held audio computers to boost literacy and improve life in rural Ghana.

Executive Director Cliff Schmidt ’92 started Literary Bridge’s Talking Books project after spending six weeks in rural Ghana in 2007. Supported by individual donations and thousands of volunteer hours, the group completed R&D, produced 100 Talking Book devices, and began feasibility studies in January 2009. Just six months later, you can now check the Literacy Bridge blog to see and hear how the devices have been used to improve farming methods and health care—and school kids love it.

Talking Books.

Talking Books.

A recent article in describes the device as “a low-cost (<$10 US) audio compute designed to help spread information within impoverished rural communities, while helping illiterate people learn to read.”

You can vote on the Literacy Bridge site, learn about Schmidt and other alumni volunteers,  and investigate this interactive philanthropic event.

General Petraeus congratulations his son, Stephen '09, at the June 6 ROTC commissioning ceremony.

General Petraeus congratulates his son, Stephen '09, at the ROTC commissioning ceremony, as President Susan Hockfield applauds. Photo: Darren McCollester.

At MIT’s ROTC commissioning June 5, General David Petraeus was beaming like a proud father. And he was. As he presided over the commissioning of 12 members of the Class of 2009, he included in that oath his son, Stephen. The new graduate, a political science major, appears to be following his dad’s footsteps not only into the army, but into a larger understanding of world issues. The senior Petraeus holds a PhD in international relations from Princeton.

This commissioning event also kicked off a new affinity group, the MIT Military Alumni/ae Association. The MITMAA aims to engage alumni with military experience or interests. Is that you? Learn more about the MITMAA online.