Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Billions in Change

Billions in Change is a company founded by Manoj Bhargava that seeks sustainable solutions to the problems of water, energy and health in the world. I came across its website recently while reading about some innovations in sustainability. The focus of Billions in Change is reflected in their "Philosophy" (as quoted from their website):

"Our philosophy is simple -- make things that meet the basic needs of those who don't have the basics, thus enabling them to provide for themselves, their families and their communities. These basic needs include fresh water for drinking and agriculture; clean electricity to power homes, schools and businesses; and healthcare solutions that prevent disease."

Link to website:

Further aspects of their philosophy is expressed in the section, "Our Belief":

"We believe talking about change changes little. Creating awareness doesn't stop pollution, grow food or heal the sick. These things take doing. And that's what Billions in Change is all about -- creating and implementing solutions that meet basic needs, and thereby creating a positive impact on billions of people around the world."

It is the "creating and implementing solutions" that I feel would be of interest to our students. So the website is a good source of information about solutions that have already been developed.

Link to "Solutions" section:

This section offers a variety of solutions to sustainability problems of water, electricity, energy and health. And example that I will focus on more specifically in my next post is one of sustainable energy. Manoj Bhargava's company has developed an energy-producing bike, intended for rural areas, for which one hour of pedaling equals 24 hours of electricity.

The website has specific information by and about Mr. Bhargava which could also be very interesting to students. His motivation and mission are very inspiring. In fact, related to an idea I discussed in my last post (Pioneer in AI has died, February 6, 2016), students could read about this man and write a short summary of his life and achievements in the style of an obituary. They could use the stylistic devices that I highlighted in that post.

The website also has a link to the documentary Billions in Change (43:02), which discusses aspects of the company in detail, particularly the three project areas the company is currently concentrating on: water, energy, health.

Link to documentary:

For a shorter version, either for students to view on their own or to be used in the classroom where possible, is the trailer of the documentary (3:18). Even in this short viewing there is plenty for discussion. And after watching it, students could be motivated to watch the entire documentary on their own.

There are many quotes from the trailer that could be good starters for discussion. For example, one of the engineers at the company, talking about what the company is like, says:

"It is the most well-funded playhouse for engineers you could possibly have."

What a good image of what being innovative is like for engineers! Students can brainstorm ideas of what they would like in such a "playhouse."

Manoj Bhargava, talking about the solutions engineers at the company develop, says:

"If you come up with something cool that's not useful, we don't do it. I have no interest. I don't want to be cool. Actually, I'm never going to be cool."

I think that's a pretty cool thing to say! And it can serve as a model for students to not only consider why they might come up with a certain idea, but also who they imagine they're developing it for.

This, I think, is the most important focus for students -- that they could change the world, make a difference in other people's lives. Isn't this why they wanted to become engineers in the first place?

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