Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Advising Stanford students

A couple months ago, I had the good fortune to be invited to be an advisor for the Stanford GAP-for-Good program.  It's a great program run by Prof. My Le.  It's my first time advising a team of students of any sort and I was very excited and looking forward to it.

Teams of students get together for 6-8 weeks in the summer to work on a project for a non-profit or NGO overseas.  I met with several teams and ended up spending a lot of time with Team enCode which was trying to build a self-management tool for Hepatitis-B patients in Chennai, India.  The challenges lay in educating the public about the seriousness of the disease and how to care for and monitor it.  And to create a tool that is easy to use, easily available and inexpensive.

I also got to advise two other teams - Team Tech Park which was targeting education in Bhutan and Team Grow which was adding features to an existing mobile app for tracking/diagnosis of malnourished children in Guatemala and Bhutan.  There were several issues to consider including physical accessibility, literacy rates for healthcare workers, security of the information being collected, educating young mothers, usability design and transportability of information.  The issues for each of the teams had some commonalities and some major differences.  I found the front end and back end architecture work to be very interesting indeed.

Some of the students had actually travelled to these countries and had first-hand knowledge of the issues they were dealing with.  It revealed to me how important it is to be in the field and experiencing things as they are.  It's something that can mould thought processes, characters and open up minds to view things from different angles.  Essential characteristics for an engineer.

A very rewarding experience for me indeed.  I'm looking forward to the final presentations and am sure they will all be great.