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Walton Family Foundation Awards $100,000 Grant to ADE Collaboration

The Walton Family Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Shifting Rhythms mobile education after school and summer program—launched by the Community Development track within Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship (ADE), a join initiative between Olin College and Babson College.

For the past three years, Shifting Rhythms has collaborated with educators, civic leaders, and youth ages 10-18 in Coahoma County, Mississippi to create a range of activities that introduce participants to technology, arts, and entrepreneurship through hands-on, project-based learning. ADE is a capstone program that brings Olin, Babson and Wellesley students together to apply their interpersonal, technical, and business skills to collaboratively design and launch social impact ventures with local partners.

The grant will allow continued development and testing of the student-designed curriculum as well as different delivery modes— traditional brick and mortar operation out of a single location versus operation out of a mobile trailer in multiple locations across. It will enable students to travel to Mississippi during the academic year as well as support a student that will be placed there to help implement the summer program.

About 40 students are currently participating in the after-school program, and the grant will allow that number to increase to about 75 high schoolers in the summer. Importantly, it will also allow for the continued employment of several local educators who are critical to leading the venture. 

This is the largest grant that students in an ADE track have received. 

“This is a huge success for our students, who were responsible for writing about 80 percent of the grant proposal,” said Kofi Taha, visiting designer at Olin College, “and it is a very important signal to our community partners in Mississippi that we can actually deliver on the big ideas we’ve been working on together. In community work, change moves at the speed of trust, and so doing what we say we’re going to do, continuing to show up, and sharing decision-making are all critical to building that relational trust that is needed to get anything done.”

A popular five-month pilot of the program ran from March through August of 2018, reaching 150 participants. Currently there are six curriculum modules that students can engage: vinyl cutting for screen printing; 3D-printing for making custom products; software design and VR exploration through Scratch; metal and wood working for making traditional musical instruments; and electronics investigation through batteries and solar panels. There are plans to incorporate an entrepreneurship module in the coming months.

In the next phase of piloting, ADE students will draw on the contributions of more than 650 junior high and high school students who have been engaged through co-design sessions, focus groups and surveys to more broadly investigate the ways creative self-expression can be actualized through technology, arts, and entrepreneurship.

Professor of Design and Mechanical Engineering, Benjamin Linder who co-launched the ADE program 8 years ago and continues to co-teach it said, “This is very much a part of the model for ADE. Each of the student teams raises funds for the deployment of the programming they are developing. An excellent education means there is a tight feedback loop and this grant is a big validation for the students that what they are doing is meaningful.”  

The Shifting Rhythms track has received funding from the Ford College Community Challenge (C3), the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, and 4.0 Schools in previous years.