Updated March 26 at 9:26pm

Students designing means to spark social change

By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer

When a group of Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design students four years ago imagined a conference centered on using outside-the-box thinking to promote collaborative and creative solutions to some of the state’s economic woes, the goal was simple: just put the conference together. More

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EDUCATION

Students designing means to spark social change

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When a group of Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design students four years ago imagined a conference centered on using outside-the-box thinking to promote collaborative and creative solutions to some of the state’s economic woes, the goal was simple: just put the conference together.

“It’s funny that you even say, long-term goals. We didn’t have any,” said Steven Daniels, one of eight former students who founded the event and a previous member of the Brown Engineers Without Borders group that inspired the conference.

“We thought the [conference] was a huge success after a year of grueling work,” he said. “We swore we’d never do it again but all the speakers, who pretty much were our idols, said we had to do it again.”

During that first conference, in November 2008, Daniels was a junior at Brown and, like his cohorts, focused solely on using A Better World by Design to start a conversation around “using a multidisciplinary approach to design and technology as a catalyst for social change.”

Daniels, 23, is now a research engineer at IBM and living in New York. But like the conference, running for the fifth year at the Brown and RISD campuses from Sept. 28-30, his conversations on how to make the world a better place through nontraditional solutions, continues.

“It’s a very important conversation and we need to get more people engaged in it because this is how we’re going to change the world,” said Saul Kaplan, former executive director of the R.I. Economic Development Corporation and founder and chief catalyst at the Business Innovation Factory, a Providence nonprofit focused on collaborative innovation.

Daniels and his undergraduate colleagues thought up the conference to countermeasure the neglect they felt from Brown as the Engineers Without Borders worked to use technology to promote sustainable development, despite underfunding that prevented them from thriving as charged.

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