Tuesday, March 24 I was in Chicago to review the mid-term presentations of the 3 Acara Challenge teams at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The IIT class is part of the IPRO program, an interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum. Every undergraduate at IIT must take two IPRO classes in order to graduate. This is a great program and has solved a lot of the logistical problems in offering these kinds of classes. One thing we have certainly learned from the Acara Challenge pilot is that getting difference schools and departments within a university to play nicely together is not always easy. Same in the US and in India.

The IIT class has 12 undergraduate students, split into 3 teams, working on the Acara Challenge. The students were fresh off spring break, so we weren’t catching them at an ideal time but overall they were making good progress. The thing Acara is pushing the students on during mid-terms is to really make sure there is a tie between what they are finding out from the field research of their India teammates, and what is their proposed solution. Is there a clear need there? What is it about your solution that would make people want to use it? How is it better than an alternative? We don’t expect the students to have done a lot yet on thinking about the business model, but we want to see some thought put into it, enough that it seems feasible.

The solutions being proposed by the students were fairly diverse. One was looking at the idea of a water bank, to take advantage of the heavy rains during only part of the year. The second was a more product focused idea, looking at a better way to transport water from the central tap to the home. The final one was looking at a couple of solution and had yet to narrow down.

I am now in Mumbai, will be meeting with the IIT-Bombay students over the next few days.