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Roddenberry Big Impact Grants Awarded

Two Hampshire graduates, Aaron Wieler 01F and Benjamin Herson 95F, have been awarded a total of $11,500 through the College's first Roddenberry Big Impact grant program.

Funded by the Roddenberry Foundation and run by Hampshire's Creativity Center, the grant program was established to aid in the testing of solutions to humanitarian, socioeconomic, or environmental problems around the world. Wieler and Herson's projects were selected from a pool of 22 applicants, and build on ideas first formulated during their Division III (senior) project work.

"Reading through the ideas, many from alums, I was proud to be part of a cohort of people who are enacting their world-changing ideas," said Creativity Center Alumni Fellow RJ Sakai 08F, who oversaw the grant program. "This has been one of the more inspirational things I've done this year."

A grant of $7,060 was awarded for Wieler's project, a prototype of a set of connecting joints made of steel tubing that eliminates the need for welding and creates an easily configurable and accessible construction system. Steel tubing is cheap and widely available worldwide, said Wieler, but welding can be costly and skill-intensive and bolts can lead to instability. This structural constructor set eliminates the need for these methods and can be used by fabricators to make anything from a tent to agricultural equipment. Wieler formulated the idea after designing a low-cost bicycle trailer for his Div III, and learning the limitations of both bolted and welded designs.

Herson's award of $4,440 will be used to develop and field test the Nomadic Film Academy, an organization that will teach media production and entrepreneurship to Senegalese youth through the Africulturban community center in Pikine, a suburb of Senegal's capital city Dakar. During travels in Dakar in 2000 as part of his Div III project, Herson saw how economic stagnation, regressing educational systems, and unemployment had devastatingly impacted Senegalese youth. His goal is to address some of these challenges through the academy. The project will include a curriculum guide, a one-month workshop for 20 Senegalese youths, an evaluation to ascertain the program's effectiveness in Senegal as well as its potential to be scaled and adapted for other countries and contexts, and a multimedia presentation and workshop for the Hampshire College community.

The review committee for the Roddenberry Big Impact grant program consisted of Five College Visiting Assistant Professor of Sustainable Architecture Gabriel Arboleda; current student Martin Jutres 12F; publisher and urban planning project manager Katie Stebbins; author, songwriter, and recording artist Jesse Sterling Harrison 91F; and Hampshire College Associate Director and Project Manager of Facilities and Grounds Carl Weber.

Creativity Center grant information >>

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