01 October 2011


I have graduated from the Masdar Institute.  I'm living in Ghana right now, one day I'll start posting updates again...

13 April 2011

Masdar's first community event

Masdar has recently announced the inauguration of a reoccurring public community event "The Market@Masdar City."    The first one will be on Friday 29 April, from 10 am - 5pm. A recent email I received promised the event will "bring together artists, organic producers, food stalls, spas and entertainment."   Spas.  Not exactly what I think of when I think of markets or community events, but the rest sounds exciting. 

The event is completely open to the public, everyone is welcome.

More info about the event here.

Location map here.

It's been very interesting to see Masdar open itself up to the public. When my brother visited in January, he asked if he could blog about how other people could find their way to Masdar to explore it.  At the time, I told him no because it wasn't really clear whether Masdar was open to the public or not.  I suspected that security would likely turn away random people showing up to just look around.  However, shortly after that, at the end of January, random families started appearing on campus all the time.  I'd walk out of the library and dodge around toddlers playing around the fountain, or see couples lugging grocery bags from the Organic food store, families relaxing at Caribou Coffee or enjoying dinner at Sumo Sushi.

By the time my brother came back through the UAE in March after some epic traveling, I told him it was fine to blog about directions to Masdar as random families were showing up all the time, which seemed to be encouraged as they bring a lot of support for the businesses here which would otherwise have to rely on less than 300 students/faculty/admin who work and reside on campus.

I'm glad the campus feels more open now.  It's nice to have signs of life other than grad students toiling away in labs.

03 April 2011

Best class *ever*

Last week, I went to a giant extravaganza educational student conference dinner at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, and there of all places, I met someone from Southern Utah University.  She described to me basically what sounds like the most awesome class ever.

It's called PAM for "Passion Action Media", it's meant to be the little sister of TED

Lectures involve watching a TED talk, with some additional input added by a visiting speaker in the classroom who can comment on the subject from their own expertise. 

For homework, students choose any topic they want related to the topic and then research it on their own.
They turn in a 2-page paper that is graded pass/fail.

Then everyone discusses what they found in class.  If you did not turn in your paper, you are not allowed to participate in the discussion.

At the end of the semester, everyone presents their own PAM talk.

Another one of my favorite parts is that students are required to make a "concept map" that draws links they've found between all the TED talks, presentations, and discussions.

I would love to see this class model be copied in other places.
  1. TED provides some excellent learning material that is incredibly engaging
  2. The course enables students to pursue what they want to learn.
  3. Furthermore, students have excellent opportunities to learn from each other.  All too often, this aspect is quite limited in classes. 
  4. I think this is the type of course that maximizes the learning, inspiration, and understanding that students can get out of a course while requiring minimal input from the instructors.  (It's been my experience that many times awesome courses require an unsustainable amount of work from instructors.)

Here's a link to the syllabus for PAM.
And PAM's course website.

05 January 2011

One more to go

I didn't intend to imply in my last post that sustainable energy should be for the elite only.  Far from it, just the way that Coca-cola is an aspirational product and everyone can take part, it's a very accessible product.

I'm a bit sad that the fall semester is over.  It was my favorite semester at Masdar thus far, mainly because I loved my classes.  One was Distributed Generation, which teaches some of the basic electric power engineering principles behind adding renewable technologies to a grid in a decentralized way.  I've wanted to learn this stuff for so long, I'm really happy that I finally had a chance.

The other is Technology Strategy, where we studied a series of case studies about companies on the cutting edge of technology, particularly their successes and lessons learned.  For example, we looked at E-Ink (technology behind Kindle e-readers) and Apple.  During one of our assignments, I found this awesome paper by a couple of business professors at NYU that predict that wind and geothermal energy are on track to become less expensive than energy from fossil fuels within the near future.  They make a strong case that wind and geothermal are now a better R&D investment than fossil fuel technologies.  

There's a magazine article about this paper here. The original paper is here.

The reading assignments for class were fantastic, and really changed the way I think about start up companies.  In particular, I found "Crossing the Chasm" to be super useful.  The main premise is that there's a large gap between your first wave of customers and tapping into mainstream buyers. This transition is not smooth and companies need to fundamentally rework the way they sell their product.  Although the book is tailored for "high technology" industries, I thought its explanations were particularly fitting to Global Cycle Solutions and their bike powered corn sheller and cellphone chargers for Tanzanian farmers.  I was really excited to tell Dan and Jodie about this book, but a mentor from Echoing Green beat me to it.  =)