Featured Q&A

Adam Jongeward (AJ) – ESW Tsunami Project

Greg Rulifson (GR) – ESW Tsunami Project

Eric Sundstrom (ES) – ESW Director of Projects

Chris Tsoufakis (CT) – Solar Refrigeration Project Leader

Milena Gonzalez (MG) – Director of Fundraising

Q: Could you describe some of the main goals of your project and briefly outline the process by which you plan to achieve them? In short, what does your project entail?

 Our goal is to help the government, NGOs and general population in Padang, Indonesia, to develop strategies for tsunami evacuation. Currently, we have teams analyzing buildings for vertical evacuation potential and their ability to withstand the earthquake as well as the wave.

CT: The project goal is to develop a means to create ice in areas with little or no electrical grid penetration. The ice generated will be used to meet diverse cold storage needs, including food, vaccine and blood preservation. Further goals include researching capabilities and resources for local manufacturing, testing the device in the field and researching the cultural and political realities of the local community.

Q: Could you explain the process whereby you brought into collaboration partner student groups, if any?

 Originally, the Padang project was a partnership between ESW-Stanford and GHI, a Palo Alto-based NGO. However, it became apparent early on that to make a lasting impact we really needed to develop long-term relationships with local organizations in other countries as well.

Q: What has the project taught you from an environmental standpoint? From a policy standpoint? From a collaboration and communications standpoint?

 A “Western” paradigm rooted in science can only take you so far in a non-Western culture. Thus, an interdisciplinary approach is truly necessary in order to successfully design and communicate ideas to the international policy world.

GR: Patience is absolutely critical in the policy world. Without this virtue, projects would be dropped all around the world, even though their intentions were good from the start. Currently, our project is working through both the city of Padang and the government of Sumatra to make construction of engineered buildings part of Indonesian policy.

CT: We had many speakers come to the class to discuss the challenges of developing technology for the Third World. Problems in developing communities cannot be solved with technology alone but also require an intimate understanding of the people and a collaboration with policymakers.

Q: In a nutshell, what is the greatest individual benefit this project has imparted to you? The greatest individual challenge?

 The greatest challenge has been communication. Whether we are trying to email the students in Indonesia, videoconference with the class or understand what is going on in a conversation while in the country, effectively communicating your precise ideas is very difficult.

Q: Would you do anything different in your approach to creating and managing this project if you could start over?

 I would pay closer attention to the difference between the undergraduate and graduate members of our project. While graduate students tend to work well with autonomy, I would provide greater guidance to the undergraduates.

Q: How do you feel you will use this project experience in shaping your future career path?

 As director of projects, I've had the chance to work with a large number of NGOs, for-profits and community partners. The experience of running projects for ESW is in many ways comparable to running a small NGO. In addition, the opportunity to teach a student-led design course has been invaluable.

Q: Is there any advice or any tips you would like to give to future applicants of the Mel Lane Program?

 Apply! The Woods Institute for the Environment is very supportive of student initiatives and there is still a lot of work to do in sustainability on campus, the country and the world!