Enrichment Grant Report: Alex Cantrell ’14

Alex Cantrell ’14 was selected to receive an Enrichment Grant from the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. This funding allowed Alex, Kwaku Akoi ’14, and and Geofrey Kipkemoi ’16 to attend the Better World by Design (BWxD) conference at Brown University. Read Alex’s story below, and visit the PCSE website to learn more about our Enrichment Grants.


bwxd-header-newThis past September, the Patricelli Center helped me and two other students, Kwaku Akoi ’14 and Geofrey Kipkemoi ’16, to attend the second annual Better World by Design (BWxD) conference at Brown University. It was a fantastic conference, featuring workshops and speakers from a variety of fields with a unifying focus on sustainable design. It started with an introduction by Alex Eaton, continued with a pitch competition featuring Kinvolved and BioBolsa, and moved into workshop sessions. The workshops were both technical and theoretical. Some worked with specific technologies, for example, “Introduction to Electronics, Programming, and the Arduino Hacking Smartphones, 3D Printers, and Velcro” used an Arduino microcontroller to explore the basics of physical computing. Another, the “ABWxD MAKEaTHON: Hackable Smartphones, 3D Printers and Velcro” explored how “direct digital manufacturing and unlocked hardware can be used to create cool things”.

As I am personally non-technical, I went to a workshop called “Science Fiction and How Not To Ruin the World,” given by Sophia Bruekner from Brown, Google, and the MIT Media Lab. This workshop was far and away the highlight of the conference for me, as we were encouraged to think wildly about utopian and dystopian implications of 21st century technology through the lens of science fiction writing. I was introduced to the ideas of critical design, especially through this story by J.G. Ballard. These concepts have become important in my conceptualization of what technology should or should not be, and raise the question that is all-too important today: We can build it; but should we?

I met some interesting and like-minded people at the conference, heard of some cool new ideas, practiced some essential group-working and professional skills, and was generally refreshed to take a step off campus for a day. A day well spent, many thanks to the PCSE!