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February 17, 2010 - Image 9

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8B The Statement Wednesday, February 17,2010
PERSONALSTATEMENT

A LIGHT SOLUTION
BY SIHAIINOORlAMIN

able life, but I wanted to make a differ-
ence in the lives of others who wanted
a chance to escape the wretched grasp
of poverty.
In March 2008, while I was an
electrical engineering undergraduate
student at Kettering University, the
deputy director of the Boston Rede-
velopment Authority asked me . to
design a solar panel system for remote
villages in Guinea, West Africa. I had
no experience in solar energy systems
but was enthusiastic about the idea,
and so I accepted the opportunity. I
told a friend of mine - Abdrahamane
Traore, who is a native of the west
African country, Mali - who shared
my excitement, and after nine months
of sleepless nights and

oming from Bangladesh, one
of the poorest countries in the
world, I've seen the extremes
of life. Though I'm blessed to be part
of a family where education, diligence
and decency are high priorities, I've
also had the opportunity to view life
from different perspectives: the dark-
ness of a poor, uneducated life that my
father's side of the family faces on a
daily basis, and the glamor of prosper-
ity my mother's side has always expe-
rienced.
I often used to visit my paternal
family in their villages, the pungent
smell of burning kerosene lamps
wafting through the air as hopeful
students struggled to squint through
what little light they had in an attempt
to read their schoolbooks. Despite
their abject poverty and lack of mod-
ern technological advances, the
inhabitants of these villages always
seemed to radiate happiness even as
they endured the smell of cow dung
and the pouring rain of monsoon
ENTREPRENEURSHIP
From Page 6B
extract that and make a business out
of it," Bornhorst said. "In this down
economy, it's the perfect time to start
a business."
Alumnus Emily Weingarten's atten-
tion to entrepreneurship also began
aVehe University. While attending the
School of Music, Theater and Dance
for a degree in bassoon performance
and musicology, Weingarten joined
Arts Enterprise, a University group
that promotes the interaction between
art and business - and especially art
and entrepreneurship.
Weingarten emphasized that orga-
nizations like Arts Enterprise are
viTally important in the recession.
"(The recession) has a huge effect for
Arts Enterprise members, because we
have a huge supply and demand issue
with arts careers in that music and arts.
schools are producing more and more

season. Things that seem common-
place in the world we are used to are
completely foreign in these places -
electricity is a dream for some and
unknown to many. As I left the village
of Rangunia, Chittagong, Bangladesh
in 1995, I had no idea that one day I
might return, bringing a light of hope
with me.
When I moved to the United States
in 1995, I began to experience a luxu-
rious life, the other side of what I had
lived as a child in a kerosene-pow-
ered village. My family was success-
ful in their chosen fields: my father
is a Ph.D. in civil engineering, my
mother is a doctor of gynecology and
obstetrics, my eldest brother and his
wife and my sister and her husband
are doctors, my second brother is an
electrical engineer and his wife is a
Harvard-educated doctor of pathol-
ogy. Our household is continually
full of intellectual conversations
with people from diverse fields of
study and I've always been encour-

aged to aspire tobe the best. My fam-
ily seemed to be living the American
dream, the ideal of success and pros-
perity.
But even with my comfort in
America, somewhere deep within my
heart I always remembered the face
of a hungry child back in Bangladesh

the world. We understood that expen-
sive, large- scale systems weren't the
solution; portable and affordable solu-
tions were the answer.
Late last year, Abdrahamane and I
developed a simple, portable solution
that uses clean solar energy to pro-
vide lighting at night and electricity
for basic electronics. Most students in
Bangladesh need lighting at night to
study, which is currently provided for
by expensive and unreliable kerosene
lamps. Families also need enough
electricity to charge their cellular
phones, rather than traveling several
miles to the nearest phone charging
station.
After proving the plausibility of
our concept through the first pro-
totype, we won the 1,000 Pitches
Competition, the largest on-campus
entrepreneurship competition in the
country. One month later, we won
the Alternative Energy Competition
as well.
We are inspired to make a differ-
ence by providing hope to people in
poor countries while ensuring a posi-
tive cash flow company. By utilizing
the talents and aspirations deep with-
in us, we realized that it was possible
to truly make a positive difference in
the world.
- Shahnoor Amin is an
Engineering graduate student.

countless cups of cof-
"As I left the village ... I had no fee, we completed the
system. p
idea that one day I might return, yte d e
The hands-on expe-
bringing a light of hope with me." rience and industry
contacts we gained
were invaluable. But
whose watery black eyes conveyed a much to our dismay and shock,
sense of desperation. Looking at him, our design was never implemented
I could tell he was begging for some- because of cost. A typical solar panel
one to offer a hand, an opportunity system ranges in price from $3,000 to
for inspiration. The hope he longed $6,000 per household - far beyond
for was the same hope that helped my the per capita income of villagers.
father as he persevered, despite being However, instead of discarding our
from a destitute family, to become one work and viewing ourselves as fail-
of the few people in his region to ever ures, we became even more resolute
receive a Ph.D. I was livinga comfort- about helping the destitute people of

artists, and with the economy, there are
fewer and fewerjobs," she said.
After she graduated from the Uni-
versity in 2008, Weingarten got a job
at The Colburn School's music con-
servatory in Los Angeles. But she soon
decided it wasn't for her after realizing
it lacked the entrepreneurial aspects
she sought in a career. Weingarten
then returned to Michigan, joining
Arts Enterprise as a chapter devel-
opment specialist when it became a
national non-profit based in Ypsilanti
last year.
In addition to promoting entrepre-
neurial ventures among musicians
and artists, Weingarten is helping to
develop a venture around creATE, her
healthy living blog accessible through
AnnArbor.com.
She said she's not yet sure how to
turn the blog into a revenue venture,
but said she's thinking of writing a
cookbook or publishing articles. Wein-
garten said she values her contin-
ued ties to Arts Enterprise because it

encourages her to think entrepreneur-
ially.
"The great thing about Arts Enter-
prise is it empowered me to say, 'Well,
I have this idea, and there's got to be
some way that I can develop it," she
said.
Michael Mauskapf, executive direc-
tor of the University's Arts Enterprise
chapter and musicology graduate stu-
dent, elaborated on the importance of
promoting entrepreneurial thinking.
"Sometimes we take for granted
that artists are automatically entre-
preneurial," he said. "But a lot of art-
ists, especially undergrad students,
are caught in the middle of schoolwork
and practice room, and they just find
themselves kind of isolated. So we try
to provoke and instigate their entre-
preneurial side."
Though some students were pushed
toward entrepreneurship by a blend of
University support and personal inter-
est, others began startups from pure
necessity.

When Eric Garcia, a graduate
student in the School of Informa-
tion, began looking for an internship
required by the Master of Science in
Information program for the summer
of 2009, he was hesitant about avail-
able opportunities.
"Last summer it was really difficult
to find a good position at a good com-
pany," Garcia explained. "No one went
to Google, we had one person go to
Apple - the numbers were really low."
Garcia, along with three fellow
students decided to enter a business
idea into RPM10, a 10-week summer
internship program - resources and
capital included - that RPM Ventures
offers to University students with orig-
inal business ideas.
"We submitted this really vague
idea that we would build a mobile
social game, and they liked it and we
won, so that got us a good chunk of
money, office space and basically the
whole summer to design a game," he
said.

The internship program fulfilled
the requirement at the School of
Information, which was "a life saver"
for Garcia, and the team lived off the
$20,000 grant while developing their
startup, Phonagle, and its first game,
OutWord - an interactive, geographi-
cal word game similar to Scrabble.
Though the company is now trying
to decide whether the venture can be
profitable, a mobile app that has 10,000
downloads and world-wide users is a
long way from where Garcia was when
he graduated from the University with
a B.A. in Spanish in 2006.
Garcia echoes the sentiments of
many University students who ulti-
mately decided to forgo career plans
to take the riskier move and start a
company. And, like most, he said he
wouldn't change anything about how
his life has shaped up after gradua-
tion.
"I never thought in my life that I
would have started my own company,"
he said. "I've fallen in love with it."

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