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More from NPR…Ayodha Ouditt, NPR Science

My internship involves working on pieces which come in a variety of flavors.

Some articles have dealt with imaginative, nigh whimsical concepts, like the archaeobiology of chalk.


Others have touched on familiar aspects of daily life, like the ‘summer science’ series for which i produced some cartoonish drawings describing (loosely) the phenomenon of “brain freeze”.


Important issues like sexism in science have also seen a fair amount of attention The process leading up to the final illustration involved minor adjustments like body posture, scale and the direction the bodies were facing. It was definitely the most nuanced of all the pieces I’ve done. See below.


I’ve also been working on NPR’s “what’s your big idea?” video contest. The call for entries can be found here. the video itself features a bunch of young geniuses at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair promoting their possibly world-changing (and often world-saving) ideas. The competition invites young people across the country (ages 13 – 25) to share their own ideas, ideas that are big enough and benevolent enough to make a positive change in the world. Though the videos must be posted on Youtube, the winning entry will be showcased on both NPR’s Youtube and Facebook pages.

More importantly, the winner’s video will be presented to a leader in the corresponding scientific field, for feedback or maybe even commendation or collaboration.



Cooper Hewitt Design Education-Giles Holt, City of Providence

by Giles Holt

My Maharam Fellowship research has focused on effective methods for mid-sized city governments to crowdsource talent and insight around defined planning and policy issues.

During the week of June 11th I was able to participate in the Cooper Hewitt Symposium on Design Education for Teachers sponsored by the Pearson Foundation a (501 c-3 focused on literacy, learning, and ‘great teaching’). Cooper Hewitt’s intent in hosting the symposium was to take great teachers from across the US and show them how to teach design education. While this seems out of the realm of City Planning and Policy, there is an incredible gap between our ability to conceptualize of cities as a system of systems that starts with education.

The workshop took participants through the standard design phases from scoping to user interaction within the Harlem community. Two aspects became key-takeaways. Project based education and experiential learning. Both of which represent a larger trend in education, which when taken at a systemic scale can mean the difference between ownership and dismissal. For resident engagement to be effective, such as the UK’s opening of government data (see:, it requires ownership on the part of an individual. A process that starts with education.

Speaking with Tobias Shepherd in Providnence City Hall brings up the fact that the city doesn’t lack talent, it lacks systems to crowd-source talent. I have  been fortunate enough to be able to bridge my work with the larger goals of STEM to STEAM education by collaborating with technologists to start initial iterations of an open city government application that will enable public officials to create defined digital spaces dedicated to a single problems.

Existing methods deal in either superlatives or absolutes. Problem solving at either too granular a scale, a single pothole, a building’s energy usage, or issues too systemic to tackle from a macro level, relationships between public spending and resource utilization. The Cooper Hewitt Symposium brought a component of design to education that effectually will result in stronger abilities to work across scales with agile tools for engagement.


The State of Upcycling and Maharam thus far-Joseph Escobar, City of Providence

Upcycling is a new concept first coined in 1994. This concept is the process of converting waste materials or secondhand products into new products. Upcycling falls under, ‘reuse’ and is the more favored aspect of waste processing by the United State Environmental Protection Agency.

In the past two decades only a few municipalities have begun to invest in “reuse programs.” Waste processing is still largely a private enterprise and outside of Good Will, Salvation Army and yard sales, there are no systems to prevent usable and durable goods from entering the waste stream.

For the past few years, I have worked on a student run upcycling program called 2ndLife. Our work this summer is to develop a model of upcycling for art schools that would also encompasse the local community.

Meetings thus far:

6/14 Meeting with RISD facilities (Providence, RI)

At this meeting was Joe Melo (Custodial and Grounds Supervisor) and Alan Cantara (Director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety). From this meeting, I learned about the waste flow within RISD and the steps involved from moving a piece of trash from a student’s dormitory to pick-up by a third party.

6/26 Trip to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Cooperation (Johnson, RI) tour given by Krystal Noiseux (Recycling Program Manager)

At the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Cooperation, the $16.9M system runs recyclables through a series of conveyor belts moving at different angles, speeds,directions and air blaster machines with the aid of human hands are the means in which materials are sorted.

6/29 – 7/2 NYC Trip: Meeting with Emily Rubenstein (Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability) and Benjamin Rose (Program Director of NYC’s Materials Exchange Development Program, under the Sanitation Department)

Cal and Phil (two other 2ndLife members) joined me on the trip to NYC. In the meeting with Emily and Ben, we had an hour long conversation about the considerations for an upcycling program in NYC where transportantion and space are two of the greater issues in moving materials around the city.The city has a mandate of 75% waste diversion by 2030, so ,”we have begun to explore reuse” Emily tells us. Both Emily and Ben had provided great advice on what kinds of numbers and information that municipalities would be interested in.

Meeting with Alex Williams from Rich, Brilliant Willing (RBW)

Inside the Rich Brilliant Willing studio in Manhattan, Alex, Cal, Phil and I sat around a draft of our website, and talking about our image, inventory and reviewed our deliverables for Maharam.

Both Alex from RBW and Ben from the Dept. of Sanitation recommended that we pick one item and track its flow through the 2ndlife program of upcycling. We just weighed all of our paper pada, ranging from newsprint to bristol, for a total of 306 pads weighing 433 lbs. and apx. $1,100 in value. The pads were donated by students during the end of dorm move-0ut this past May.

7/12 Massachusetts College of Art and Design: Meeting with Amelia and Joseph(Puppy), the students who run ReStore (Massachusetts College of Art and Design) (Boston, MA)

I met Amelia and Puppy at the ReStore location at the center of the MassArt campus. For an hour we talked about our respective organizations and how we operated as well as the potential we see in having our organizations better integrated within the local community. “If you can do it at a public school, you can do it anywhere.” Puppy says as we look though a few pages of the draft of the ,”how to” manual.

7/16 Phone chat with Susan Casico, Recycling Director, Public Works Department / Boston (From my apartment)
A phone conversation centered around waste management and processing with in Boston.

I will continue to work with the team and meet with Sustainability Directors from major US cities, such as Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and reach out to other art schools, in order to create a more comprehensive model of upcycling. For pictures and other updates, check out We will have the first drafts of our deliverables up by the end of the week.


Gulu, Uganda: a world not so far away-Andreas Nicholas, GlobeMed

“Jill & Andreas in their natural habitats” – Photo by Kristina Lai

The last time my project partner Jill and I spoke with our host Pamela Angwech via Skype before leaving the United States, it was surreal to see two visually different backdrops next to each other on screen. We were settled in my architect father’s Danish inspired walnut kitchen in Chicago, and Pam was seated in front of the curtain at the back window of her dining room. Ours was built with design and composition heavily considered and hers was intentionally fluorescently lit to conserve electricity. Despite the contrast, our effortless conversation transcended any feelings of distance or disconnect.

A few days later, we were seated at Pam’s dining table, sharing an incredible meal occupying the “backdrop” that we had originally seen over Skype. To tell you the truth, the adjustment felt almost immediate. It was a homecoming of sorts, and this surprised me. Dinner table discussions and stories that I would normally think of as being worlds away from me felt commonplace and comfortable here.

Despite the sense of comfort in my new home, I’m keenly aware of being in a post-conflict setting for the first time. The closest that I have come to hearing firsthand accounts like this are my grandfather’s World War II stories of escaping from his then Communist-ruled home country, Slovakia. Daily conversation topics range from the current Ugandan political situation and the atrocities that the Lord’s Resistance Army committed to how Pamela knows seven different ways to execute an ambush. Everything is fair game.

I thought this policy to be specific to Pam’s house and to a certain degree, it is.  By and large, however, the people of northern Uganda want to share their stories, even if it is difficult for them. War atrocities are physically, emotionally, and temporally close to these individuals. I think it’s a sense of acceptance and willingness to move forward that makes their stories raw, real, and articulated with a different kind of hope than I encounter in the U.S. The ownership they demonstrate over life circumstances – and their generosity in sharing their stories – is inspiring to say the least.

We have spent the past week interviewing various individuals – some who were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); others who have been subjected to losing ancestral homes after returning from IDP camps; still others who have suffered abuse from their loved ones.

But the stories never simply stop there. The people that we’ve spoken to who were affected by the LRA speak of their new families and better lives, the land grab victims speak of how community leaders are helping to resolve their conflicts, and the women speak of how their husbands have been changed by women’s rights programs. If people are unhappy with a policy or an issue, more often than not, there is a tendency to take action locally.

I must acknowledge that the people that we have spoken to have all been beneficiaries of Gulu Women’s Economic Development and Globalization (GWED-G) programs and are only a small cross-section of the people living in this region. However, these stories and solutions can be replicated – they represent the power of grassroots change and hope for the future direction of this country.

What the coming years hold for northern Uganda will prove to be very interesting. I am honored to uncover and document this movement of recovery.

Photos and first impressions can be viewed here.


This is NPR-Ayodha Ouditt, NPR Science

Between the blistering heat of the sun and the blinding beauty of the architecture in the city, DC lives up to any expectations one may have of an urban summer setting. I’m here because of an internship at NPR, one that revolves around “science visualization”, but promises to provide many more opportunities for lateral exploration.

“Science visualization” is what it sounds like. It’s the process of communicating science visually in an effort to make complex material more digestible to a general audience. This can take the form of videos, both live or animated, infographics, and illustrations. As part of a team here at the NPR science desk my responsibilities have fallen predominantly within the last area but if been encouraged to branch out and write my own stories if I feel so inclined…

boy do I feel inclined.

While they’re still in the embryo stages, I have at least 2 ideas for pieces I’d like to see completed and published by the end of my summer stay. For now though I’ll just keep my lips sealed and present some links to some of the things I’ve worked on in the last few weeks. In my next update I’ll be dissecting one of these pieces and going through the planning process. If you’re from RISD, the humorous twists and turns of the design process won’t surprise you.


Getting Shocked and Situated at Mayo-Samantha Dempsey, Mayo Clinic

July 3, 2012

Samantha Dempsey

I never thought that a place like the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation could exist in the real world. Though everyone talks about how great cross-disciplinary collaboration is, in reality, the difficulties of getting two completely different sets of people to speak the same jargon, much less fruitfully collaborate often keeps such visions from being realized. At the CFI, however, radical collaborations are an everyday achievement. Monday through Friday, a team of graphic, industrial, and service designers come together with doctors, nurses, and healthcare providers to ask difficult questions and to bring a new vision of the future to life. And now, thanks to the Maharam STEAM fellowship, one new illustrator has joined their ranks.

These first three weeks have been unreal. My journey began with shock when I realized the vastness of the cornfields surrounding Rochester like an occupying army. Since then, I’ve learned that there are stranger things in this city than the vast quantities of agricultural produce. There are things like cheese curds and the propensity of the natives to call soda “pop”. Oh ya. However strange these things are to a born and bred New Englander, by far the most interesting thing I’ve found in Rochester is my work at CFI.

My second instance of shock came when I discussed my position as a Maharam STEAM fellow with Lorna Ross, the design manager at CFI. CFI regularly hosts co-ops, and this summer I found myself working with four other talented young designers. Each co-op works on a specific platform, and follows that single project for the duration of her time here. I assumed that my position as a fellow would be much the same. You can imagine my surprise when Lorna sat me down and explained that there are no limitations on the projects I can complete or conceive of as a fellow. She explained that because I came here with my own funding, I am free to explore any area of design that I’m interested in, will be able to conduct my own research, and can create whatever I deem appropriate to explain my experience. I can produce anything from an installation to an exhibit to a concrete product. My job is to figure out just what an illustrator can do here. I’m “an experiment”, the CFI’s “artist in residence”, and the first illustrator to be part of this incredible team.

My third shock came when I met the design team for the first time. All the designers sat around a single table, discussed the projects they’d been working on, and offered each other insights. Lorna asked the team for ideas and ways they’d like to see my skills implemented at CFI as a free-floating illustrator. I recorded the answers in my sketchbook, which you can see below, and their suggestions were as varied and as exciting as any projects I could have dreamed up for myself. In the end, two themes emerged that were important for me as an illustrator to explore: storytelling and the importance of empathetic (as opposed to just data-based) information.

Being a part of CFI feels almost unreal in the freedom and perfect niche I’ve found here. The entire clinic is open for me to observe, experiment with, and figure out just what I can do here as an artist, a designer, and a storyteller. I’ve never been so inspired by a team, and it’s still hard to believe that I’m lucky enough to be a valued member and a part of that. I don’t fetch coffee here. I’m using the intersection of art, design, and medicine to help people, and in the process I’m carving out a new place for at least one illustrator in this world.


NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability – Meeting 6/29-Joseph Escobar, City of Providence

Joseph Escobar

This past Friday, the team and I met with Emily Rubenstein, of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability and Benjamin Rose, Program Director of NYC’s Material Exchange Development Program (under the Sanitation Department). The meeting centered around issues of reuse programs, and especially in NYC, the problem of transportation and space. Both Emily and Benjamin provided great feedback on our project this summer.

(click here for pics and our meeting with Alex from Rich, Brilliant Willing)