Summer is coming to an end in D.C., and so is our time with our Summer Tech Fellows at TechChange. We kicked off our first TechChange Summer Fellowship this year and had three amazing fellows join us at our headquarters. Before You Jin wraps up her fellowship, we asked her about her time at TechChange!

How did you hear about TechChange?
I first heard about TechChange when the Founder, Nick Martin spoke at a panel about social change at my university. It was equally mind-boggling and motivating to hear that it was actually possible to pursue a career that aligns my passions in design, education technology, and social work!

Fast forward four years later, I’m still a huge fan of TechChange and an alumni of two courses: Mobiles in International Development & Technology for Data Visualization, and now also a TechChange Fellow!

Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m a User Experience (UX) designer who studied Sociology and International Development & Conflict Management at the University of Maryland College Park. I’ve always been interested in finding ways that design can improve lives. After joining my high school’s IT program, I pursued web design because, at the time, I was convinced that tech and social good meant designing websites for charitable organizations.

However, I was happy to realize that my perspective was quite limited. From education technology, mHealth, ICT4D to human-centered design, the role of tech in social good means so much more today.

Outside of work, I love to take pictures, play board games with family and jam with friends. If I could, I would go on a food tour in Asia and a photo expedition to all of the National Parks. I also spend my free time serving as a teacher for my church’s youth group and as a designer for Girls in Tech DC.

Where were you when you found out you were accepted into the fellowship?
I remember sitting on my couch, casually checking my email before heading to bed. When I saw the acceptance email – I couldn’t believe it! Of course, after reading it over and over again, I immediately shared the news with my family and close friends because they knew how much the fellowship meant to me.

Why did you choose TechChange to spend your summer?
TechChange is a place for “geeks for social good” and to me, becoming a fellow “geek” had never sounded so appealing. I love how TechChange connects a diverse range of development partners and professionals around the world through education, whether it’s through their diploma program in Monitoring and Evaluation or animation about USAID’s Mobile Solutions. After following TechChange’s work closely for several years, the thought of finally being able to work behind the scenes for TechChange was really exciting for me!

This opportunity was also a great way to dedicate my summer to diving into front-end development. Before the fellowship, I had been working with different startups and developed the desire to better communicate with other engineers and to contribute in fixing bugs.

You Jin at Escape Room

You Jin with her team during a summer surprise activity at Escape Room

What did you do at TechChange this summer? What was your role at TechChange?
The main project I worked on was building a living style guide web application to assist in rapid page development and brand consistency.

While I had created a style guide before, I was challenged to reevaluate my understanding of style guide driven development and maintainability. I paired a style guide generator (Fabricator) with a CSS documentation parser (DSS) to auto-generate pages from the outputted JSON data which lists each component’s attributes and markup. This way, whenever a developer makes changes to the codebase, the style guide would reflect those changes automatically upon compilation.

Another key part of the project was also spent auditing all of the existing CSS markup and reorganizing the user interface patterns to create a standardized taxonomy and customized theme repository. Eventually, this repository will unify and standardize styling across the main website, course platform, and admin platform which is truly exciting! The next project I’m excited to work on is redesigning the syllabus page to centralize the course platform.

What did you learn during your time at TechChange?
From breakout lunches about pedagogy and the Sustainable Development Goals, to listening in on live events with guest experts, you’re bound to learn a lot by just being inside the office.

Here are a few things I will take away from the fellowship:

  • Experiencing how writing clean and reusable code greatly contributes to its maintainability in a team environment. Implementing best practices in CSS Semantics, Javascript syntax and setting up a modular design system.
  • Overcoming my fear of the terminal! Over time, I preferred using command line tools like vim, tmux and bash scripts.
  • The value of automation and using Node.js tools such as npm and gulp to run tasks
  • Configuring Nginx to serve static files and set up an authentication scheme
  • WordPress templating (PHP) and migrating the database using Sequel Pro
  • Following Gitflow best practices including managing subtrees

What has been your favorite moment at TechChange this summer?
It’s hard to pinpoint one favorite moment! I can, however, recall the most regretful moment: running out of time at Escape Room Live when my team was solving the very last puzzle.

On a more serious note, I am truly thankful for the wonderful people I met along the way. Inside the office, I was constantly inspired by the humility, talent, and bright attitudes of each team member, not to mention that Will Chester is the most humble CTO I will ever meet! At gatherings like the Show & Tell and platform strategy session, it was evident that each team member’s progress and input was valued. I will also miss the sillier memories like bonding over our shared love for Trader Joe’s snacks. Mochi and chocolate covered pretzels to the team are what lush plants are to locusts.

Outside of the office, I felt fortunate to personally hear stories during site visits from Craig Zelizer of PDCN, Carolyn Moore from mPowering Frontline Health Workers, and Daniel Sheerin of State Department’s eDiplomacy department. I also had a blast meeting and sharing my experiences with the talented girls of Girls Who Code DC and TechGirls.

Girls Who Code

You Jin and Ellie, another TechChange fellow, with Girls Who Code

Would you come back to work at TechChange one day? Why?
Yes, I would love to! There are many exciting projects that are always brewing and I’m excited about the direction TechChange is taking. I know that I will definitely continue taking more TechChange courses.

What advice would you give to future TechChange Fellows?
I would encourage future fellows to explore. You have the opportunity to develop your
interests and strengths or go outside of your expertise by taking on different projects and participating in different conversations going on in the office. You should also take the time to get to know the people you’re sitting next to in the office because they will truly be some of the most dedicated and interesting folks you will meet.

It was a pleasure having You Jin join us as a fellow this summer, and we are excited to announce that she will continue with TechChange, part-time! We are glad we don’t have to say bye to You Jin!

Read another Tech Fellow’s experience at TechChange here! Interested in applying for the next summer fellowship? Apply here!

TechGirls Sara and Sarra with Samita and TechChange souveniers

Last Friday, TechGirls returned to the TechChange headquarters. For the last few years, TechChange has had the privilege of hosting TechGirls at our headquarters for their Job Shadow Day.

TechGirls is a selective exchange program that encourages and supports the desire of Middle Eastern and North African teenage girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). During the 3 week long exchange program, the girls (ranging from ages 15 – 17) travel around the U.S. getting a taste of the various careers one can have in STEM. One of the ways they experience a STEM career in the U.S. is by spending a day at a tech company during Job Shadow Day.

This year, Sara Chikhi from Algeria, and Sarra Bouchkati from Tunisia arrived at TechChange to learn how a day looks like at an edtech social enterprise. Sara and Sarra aspire to have a career in astrophysics and aerospace respectively.

After an introduction to TechChange, we dove right in to give the TechGirls hands-on experience with each of our team. The girls were very curious about TechChange’s work and were very excited to learn more.

TechGirls featured image
Sara tries her hand on creating an asset and animating it.

Check out what the gif they animated!

Then the TechGirls transitioned on to hear what our Tech Fellows were working on this summer.

TechGirls with Tech Team
NIthya, You Jin, and Ellie shared the various projects they were working on with the TechGirls.

The TechChange experience is incomplete without a team lunch at our nearby Ethiopian restaurant, so we all went to get some Ethiopian food for lunch!

After lunch, Delanie and Emily showed the TechGirls the various TechChange projects from the past and showed them how they create a course on articulate. The girls then created a short course about themselves! Check it out!


To sum up her experience, Sarra from Tunisia said:

“Be confident , always be eager to learn and search, and team work: these are one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned today at TechChange aside to learning about animation process, graphic design, and meeting with the tech, marketing and content teams. The collaboration between the teams portrays the company’s philosophy of learning from one another and giving each employee the chance to shine and sharpen their skills.”

TechGirls with the Team

Always a pleasure to have you here TechGirls, thanks for joining us!

If you have taken a TechChange course, you know that the participants are all doing amazing things wherever they are in the world. Some go on to start their own organization, some collaborate with other participants for future projects, and some take what they learned in the course and apply it in their current projects. Ameneé Siahpush took our Tech for M&E online course in January and has since been leading tech integration in Trickle Up’s M&E programs.

Tell us about yourself

A: I’m a Pacific Northwesterner who moved to New York City in 2010 after spending the prior few years in Latin America. My current role at Trickle Up is Senior Monitoring & Evaluations (M&E) Officer, where I support our economic and social empowerment programs in India and Central America. My work aims to increase our understanding of sustainable livelihood development for highly vulnerable populations, including outcomes around food security, health, coping mechanisms, and social empowerment. I’m particularly interested in expanding our use of participatory methods to improve and deepen our program learnings and developing simple mechanisms for sharing knowledge across participants, partners, staff, and offices. (If you have any ideas, please let me know!)

What does Trickle Up do?

A: Trickle Up is an international NGO that works to create a world in which it is unacceptable for anyone to live in extreme poverty. In collaboration with local partner organizations, we empower and support the poorest and most vulnerable people to develop the confidence and knowledge to build sustainable livelihoods by 1) providing training, coaching, and seed capital grants to jumpstart microenterprises; 2) forming savings and credit groups to build financial capital and literacy; and 3) improving access to information and financial, health, and social services. We also provide technical assistance to other development organizations and government agencies to help them deliver social empowerment and economic programming that reaches “last mile” populations, including women, people with disabilities, and marginalized ethnic populations living on under $1.25/day in rural areas. Trickle Up currently works in India, Central America, South America, West Africa, and the Middle East.

How did you hear about TechChange?

A: My colleague at Trickle Up learned about the Technology for M&E course through a Yahoo M&E group, and quickly forwarded me the information given my interest in the topic.

Why did you decide to enroll in the Tech for M&E course?

A: I feel very fortunate to work for an organization that has invested in a robust M&E system, including the use of mobile data collection for some of our projects. However, as we scale our programs, it’s essential that we adapt our M&E systems to become more efficient and effective across an increasingly large and diverse number of partners and program participants. Integrating new technologies and tools is key in this adaptation process – yet, I knew that I needed very practical guidance in understanding which combination of technologies and tools would be best suited for Trickle Up’s current and future programs. The Tech for M&E course felt like the perfect companion for exploring these issues. It offered practical tools and resources, connection to a wide network of experts, forums to collaborate with other NGOs, and flexible access to course materials to accommodate my travel schedule. I also really appreciated that the discussions were geared towards international organizations who often work in remote, rural places where connectivity and electricity challenges must be considered in their M&E tools.

How has the course impacted your work at Trickle Up?

A: I entered the course with a deep interest in exploring technologies to increase the efficiency and quality of our M&E data. I came out of the course with the language, framework, tools, and resources to actually take the lead in designing and implementing new technologies within Trickle Up’s M&E system. Since completing the course, I have successfully added “M&E tech upgrades” into our upcoming year’s strategic plans. This includes a detailed roadmap of how we will integrate and utilize mobile data collection and a data visualization/reporting platform across all of our projects to increase access to real-time data for project management, promote cross-regional learning, and, ultimately, improve our ability to direct resources towards combating extreme poverty. Yes, it’s a very lofty goal, but one that is greatly enabled by simple technologies that help to ensure our program data is more efficiently and effectively used.

What would be an advice to other participants taking a TechChange course? How can they get the most out of it?

A: If possible, approach the course with a specific, tangible challenge that you hope to confront in your daily work. Keep this challenge in mind as you choose which webinars to attend or resources to explore, and then organize your course notes in a way that will be easily accessible in the future.

Another obvious, but important, suggestion is to be an active participant! Connect with fellow students, ask questions, follow up with presenters, experiment with the recommended tools. Luckily, the course provides a wide variety of ways to engage with the materials and people, despite being in different time zones, and everyone felt very approachable and enthusiastic. We’re all current or future tech nerds, after all.

You can join participants like Ameneé in our next Tech for M&E course in September. If you are looking to dive deeper, check out our brand new Diploma Program in Tech for M&E

About Ameneé
Ameneé is the Senior Monitoring & Evaluations Officer at Trickle Up, where she supports their economic and social empowerment programs in India and Central America. She holds a BA in sociology and psychology from the University of Oregon and an MPA, with a specialization in international policy and management, from the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University (NYU). As an NYU Gallatin Global Fellow in Human Rights, Ameneé partnered with Global Workers Justice Alliance to conduct research on gender and migration in Oaxaca, Mexico, and has spent multiple years in Latin America, more broadly, volunteering with small-scale farmers and studying Spanish. Prior to Trickle Up, Ameneé was a Program Evaluator at Morrison Child & Family Center in Portland, OR, and a Research Supervisor at the Oregon Social Learning Center. Outside of work, Ameneé loves to play soccer, dance, and spend time in the mountains.

We are excited to introduce Robert Guerra as a co-facilitator in our upcoming course, TC114: Basics of Digital Safety. Robert is the founder and executive director of Privaterra, a Canadian based organization working with private industry and NGOs to assist them with issues of data privacy, secure communications, information security, internet governance, and internet freedom. Robert will be joining Norman Shamas in facilitating our upcoming course. We wanted to give you a little sneak peek to the course so we chatted with Robert:

Q: How do you define/think about digital safety?

R: I define digital safety simply as a set of steps, processes and mindset one should follow to keep one’s devices, data, communications and online interactions as protected and private as possible.

Here’s some key tips that I always mention to reduce digital risks:

#1. Be Aware!

When really wanting to keep yourself secure online or anywhere else is important to be mindful of your environment. It the most vital thing you can do.

Understand that there are many out there who are looking for simple chances to attack and steal your valuable assets. A common target will be an individual who does not take any precautions and might be intimidated by the internet and/or digital devices.

You wouldn’t leave your car door open with the keys in the ignition and the engine running, would you? Certainly not, as you run the risk of having your car stolen and driven away by someone who notices you aren’t around.

Are you taking the same precautions when using a mobile phone or using the internet? if you are, then you could be said to be doing something to protect yourself online – you in a way, implementing a digital safety practice of some kind.

#2. Guard Your valuables!

Activities that involve far more valuable, sensitive and confidential assets require one to take additional precautions. Not taking any precautions is an invitation for a burglar to target you.

Would you openly share the key to your safety deposit box where you keep your valuables and very private documents? Obviously not. However, do you take the same precautions to protect your online banking accounts, private photos, sensitive contacts on your devices?

#3. Plan for the worse, hope for the best…

Not a day goes by without some news of a retail store or online site being hacked and thousands of accounts being compromised. Attacks are increasingly unavoidable, so it is important that one has contingency plans in place to react to all sorts of possible incidents and attacks.

The worst might not happen, but if it does – you will know how to react quickly and perhaps be able to minimize the situation from getting worse.

Q: How did you get involved in the field of internet security?

R: I got seriously involved in the field of internet security back in 2001 when started a small Canadian NGO to provide encryption training to Human Rights NGOs in Guatemala and South America who were reporting that hard drives were being stolen, sensitive documents were being compromised and emails were being intercepted.

You could say, I was assisting at-risk groups who were reporting serious issues related to data breaches, surveillance and hacking almost 13 years before Edward Snowden raised the profile and importance of the issue.

Robert speaking
Robert talks about what Privaterra and other organizations are doing to help identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities faced by Human Rights Organizations.

Q: Why is digital safety especially important for NGOs and organizations working with social justice issues?

R: NGOs and organizations working with social justice issues often deal with confidential and very sensitive data in the course of their work. This data if not adequately protected, can lead to very serious consequences including death.

These groups, as stated by the targeted threats report published last year by the Citizen Lab, also face persistent and disruptive targeted digital attacks. Unlike industry and government, however, NGOs have far fewer resources to deal with the problem.

Q: What are you most excited about for the Digital Safety course?

R: I’m excited to work with Norman and the team at TechChange to help leading organizations better understand digital security and what can be done to raise the bar. We’ve worked to put together a great curriculum, some great resource material, and invited leading experts to share their amazing experience to improve the security of at-risk groups around the world.

Q: What kind of conversations are you hoping to facilitate in the course?

R: I’m looking forward to facilitating a conversation among the course participants and invited experts on security challenges currently being faced by NGOs and what steps we can taken together to improve protection methods and organizational resiliency.

As well, I’m also interested in promoting a conversation and discussion about tools, best practices and resources that can be easily implemented to not only help individuals and activists but also social justice organizations working to promote human rights and democracy promotion in at-risk environments.

We are really excited to have Robert co-facilitating this course with Norman Shamas! We already have around 40 participants joining us. There is still time to enroll in the course. Apply now. Course begins August 17, 2015.

About Robert


Robert Guerra is a civil society expert specializing in issues of internet governance, cyber security, social networking, multi-stakeholder participation, internet freedom and human rights. Robert is the founder of Privaterra, a Canadian based organization that works with private industry and nongovernmental organizations to assist them with issues of data privacy, secures communications, information security, internet governance and internet freedom. Robert collaborates with the Citizen Lab and Canada Centre for Global Security Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

TechChange alumni are always doing amazing things. They have launched mHealth apps to help with HIV prescriptions in South Africa, started mapping projects for maternal health in Ghana and more. Today, we feature an alumna from our Mapping for International Development course, Dominique Narciso!

Since taking our course last year, Dominique has gone on to found her own mapping platform, AidWell. We caught up with Dominique to hear more:

Tell us about AidWell
D: AidWell is a crowdsourced mapping and collaboration platform that would make it easy and simple to know the development stakeholders within a given issue area, such as youth development or water.

What inspired you to start AidWell?
D: During my time at Georgetown’s Master of Science in Foreign Service Program, I began to see the emerging trends in international development, where new players were growing in influence and new types of innovations were being implemented across the globe. I thought to myself, what if there was a way to see how all of these organizations are connected, visually?

Then I took TechChange’s Mapping for International Development course and really saw the possibility of visualizing this information, which pushed me further to make AidWell a reality.

Why a mapping platform?
D: If you are looking to learn about what issues different organizations are working on today, there is currently no mapping tool that consolidates this type of information in an easy and user-friendly way. Right now, it is a tedious process to find that out; you may do some google searches, reach out to your networks, or laboriously look at some NGO directories.

AidWell steps in to make it easier to just see it all in one platform on a map. It would serve US-based organizations looking to make connections with local development stakeholders and for in-country organizations looking to collaborate and learn from one another.

Dom with her team Dominique with her AidWell team

Where is AidWell right now?
D: Since starting-up, I’ve conducted a multitude of informational interviews with international NGOs, foundations, social enterprises, and donors to learn more about the need and potential viability of a mapping platform. Currently, our small AidWell team is conducting mini-experiments to understand demand and pinpoint the major challenges faced by potential users, when looking for local information of organizations.

Where do you see AidWell in a few years?
D: My vision for AidWell is to create the leading stakeholder mapping platform for the international development field, a mapping platform that opens up the possibilities for new connections and innovative ways for sharing knowledge. In the next 3-6 months, the AidWell team will be working on proving the concept, building a minimum viable product, and testing the platform in three pilot countries.

Some potential uses for this platform would include:

  • A first stop for program designers and donors when gathering information to design partnerships, cross-sector collaborations, or collective impact strategies
  • A resource for local organizations to see who is working on the same issues in their country, and potentially a virtual space for collaboration and learning
  • A country stakeholder map service for grantmakers and implementing organizations, that inform funding and stakeholder engagement strategies

Where does AidWell fit in the bigger picture?
D: With the Sustainable Development Goals being released the end of this year, there has been lots of conversations around cross-sector collaboration and public-private partnerships. One goal that stands out in this sentiment is Goal 17: ‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.’

This one goal is a sign that the way development is being done will continually change, as we reimagine the way organizations work with one another, how knowledge is shared across sectors and across borders, and how unlikely players can contribute to innovative approaches for development. I believe AidWell can be a part of this bigger goal, by helping organizations make that first step in knowing and engaging with the right organizations from day one.

Check out Dominique’s platform, AidWell here. If you would like to help with AidWell’s research and/or share ideas on mapping, please get in touch with Dom at with the title ‘TechChange: AidWell Suggestion.’

Interested in learning more about how mapping can impact social good, check out our upcoming course on Mapping for Social Good that begins on October 26, 2015.

About Dominique
Dominique Narciso is a skilled relationship builder, creative implementer, and forward-thinking leader in the international development space. She has over eight years of experience working on community development initiatives, social enterprise, and economic development. She is the Founder of AidWell, a start-up organization working to catalyze cross-sector collaboration through a web-based mapping platform to connect and map out players in the development space. She worked at Social Impact as a Business Development Manager, designing their international processes for future business opportunities. During her service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica, she co-designed several youth, women, and economic development initiatives with community members and local leaders. She has a Master’s of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a dual BA from UCLA in Communication Studies and Women’s Studies.

This year, we kicked off our first TechChange summer fellowship. We had three fellows join us in our TechChange office in Washington D.C. We sat down to chat with one of our Tech Fellows, Nithya Menon, a rising senior at Harvey Mudd College.

How did you hear about TechChange?

My interests in technology and education could take me in a lot of different directions, but I craved a global and social impact element, so I was thrilled when TechChange appeared in my Google search results. I kept up to date with their work, and was really excited when I saw the fellowship announcement. I stopped everything and began applying. Usually writing job applications is a drag, but not this time. My fantasies about working at TechChange were getting closer to reality. And don’t worry, even though I stopped studying for finals to apply, I still passed all my classes.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am a rising senior engineer at Harvey Mudd College. I grew up in Seattle, WA and frequently travel to India to spend time with my family. I’m an avid tennis player, but in general, I love being active and going on adventures. Music has always been an important part of my life and I love getting to experience it with others. I’ve recently discovered my love for hiking and camping, and some of my favorite stories are about surviving ridiculous trips into the wilderness with friends.

I have always felt incredibly blessed to have the resources and opportunities that I do, and I would love to use my knowledge and passions to boost people’s potential for sustainable growth. I believe in the power of education to tackle problems from the ground up and encourage people to learn from each other. Working at TechChange this summer gave me the chance to see how my love for education and interest in technology could combine to tackle some of the world’s greatest problems.

Where were you when you found out you were accepted into the fellowship?

I was sitting in class on the Wednesday before spring break when my phone rang. My heart raced. I was expecting the big news today. But we were reviewing for an exam and I couldn’t answer. Would they call to reject me? Might it be good news? After stressing myself out for the rest of class, I called Will Chester, TechChange Chief Technology Officer. He began asking me how I was doing, how my day had been going. The anticipation was killing me. Finally he said the words I had been dreaming of for months. I had been offered a position! I immediately sent some texts written in all caps to my best friend and parents, and ran to my next class. I can still vividly remember my sheer elation.

Nithya working
Nithya at her standing desk, where she works with dozens of code windows open on this monitor and equal numbers of Chrome tabs open on her laptop

Why did you choose TechChange to spend your summer?

TechChange’s mission combines my three biggest passions- education, social impact, and technology and the small company culture suites my learning and working styles. I knew that the people I would meet through being at TechChange, both employees and other connections, would be invaluable. I came out to DC to experience a different world and create a new network, and TechChange would help me accomplish that. A summer at TechChange would give me so much more than just greater technical skills.

What did you do at TechChange this summer? What was your role at TechChange?

I came on as a Tech Fellow, but the beauty of a small company is the number of roles or experiences you can collect. I worked with the sales team to automate significant parts of the payment process. I worked closely with marketing to integrate our methods of data collection to maintain better, more usable data on our users. Also on the marketing side, I created more visual features and flexibility for our main site. Notably, I worked with marketing and our creative team to build a dynamic grid that can be used to compare features of different products. This feature is currently being used to market our new Diploma Track program! I worked hard to make sure our site and systems were ready for the launch, and it’s exciting that everything’s live!

What did you learn during your time at TechChange?

This list could get very long very fast, but here are a few things:

  • It is possible for a small company to create a global impact by working closely with large, important partners, while still maintaining the flexibility, creativity, and collaboration of a small team.
  • Even in a company of under 20 people, different people and teams have varying perspectives, motivations, and goals, and working through these conversations is a difficult, but important step when considering the overall growth of the company.
  • There are many large, daunting problems in the world. But seeing how effectively our approach to education can tackle these problems from many angles simultaneously has made me even more inspired to go after big dreams.
  • I am still figuring out how to tie my interests and skills together cohesively, but TechChange gave me amazing opportunities to see how diverse skills can compliment each other and result in a more powerful effort.

Tech Fellows visit State Department
Nithya, You Jin, and Nick meet with Daniel Sheerin, Chief of ediplomacy at the State Department during one of their field trips this summer

What have you gotten to explore in DC?

Beyond the typical stuff, I’ve seen the monuments in the moonlight. I’ve gone to a French speaking happy hour to brush up on the language and meet new people. I went to the DC National Maker Faire. I saw an off-beat Shakespearian play. I went white-water innertubing with my housemates. I befriended a baker at a farmers market and helped her bake and sell gluten free baked goods. I saw a Syrian refugee violinist perform at the Millennium Stage in the Kennedy Performing Arts Center. I walked everywhere, for miles on end. I got rained on a lot, and refused to buy an umbrella. I spent time in second hand bookstores and worked on expanding my cooking repertoire. I played lots of tennis and made some new friends. I barely scratched the surface of what DC has to offer, but I tried my best to explore!

Did your TechChange experience end up going as you expected?

I expected it would be amazing, and it surpassed amazing weeks ago. As far as my day-to-day work, I don’t think I had a clear idea about what my work would entail, so every project I’ve worked on has been an adventure. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was to fall in love with the company and the people here. I have some tough goodbyes ahead of me.

Would you come back to work at TechChange one day? Why?

I believe in TechChange’s mission completely. I feel like a part of the TechChange family, and being at work everyday is such a positive experience. I have fantastical visions for how TechChange can develop, and would love to be involved in making them a reality. Coming from the West Coast, however, it’s still hard to imagine moving so far away from home. Even though Nick says he would paint the Golden Gate Bridge on our windows to make the transition easier, I’ve still got a lot to think about. These kinds of decisions aren’t easy!

Nithya Escape Room
Nithya with her team at Escape Room Live, one of many TechChange surprises this summer

What advice would you give to future TechChange Fellows?

I think the best skill to have is the guts to jump into things, even when you think it’s outside the realm of your expertise. Figuring things out as you go is how the world works. TechChange is a small company and people play many roles, so if there is something that intrigues you, don’t hesitate to ask about how you could get involved. Be open about your passions. Everyone at TechChange has an amazing background, and I’ve loved hearing their stories and connecting over culture, food, and hobbies. My goals and dreams have been opened to new possibilities through learning from everyone here. Keep an open mind, ask lots of questions, and let this Fellowship help you grow in ways you never anticipated.

What has been your favorite moment at TechChange this summer?

It’s hard to pick just one! I think my favorite moments come from the everyday ridiculous banter and genuine camaraderie between us in the office. From discovering a free dining table and chairs on the street and carrying them back to the office as a team on my first day, to the constant debates over the merits of standing desks and the desirable office temperature, everyday is entertaining. I love that 15 of us (and one guitar) crammed into our tiny recording studio to “harmoniously” sing happy birthday to one of our facilitators over skype. We have jokes about band names, TechChange spin-offs, soylent, and more. There are many silly moments in the office that keep me dying of laughter, but every moment of silliness is equally matched with moments of dedication and support from every person on the team. Being a part of such a playfully hard-working team made every day a wonderful moment.

It has been incredibly fun to have Nithya join our team this summer. She goes back to complete her final year at Harvey Mudd and our team wishes her all the best and hopes to see her again in the future!

Interested in applying for the TechChange summer fellowship? Apply here!

Meet Jennifer, she took her first TechChange course on Technology for Conflict Management and Peacebuilding in October and is now facilitating multiple TechChange courses.

Drawn by our teaching model, after completing her course, she wanted to become involved as a facilitator for our courses. She is currently co-facilitating TC111: Technology for Monitoring and Evaluation with Norman Shamas, and facilitating TC105: Mobiles for International Development. Jennifer will also be facilitating TC109: Technology for Conflict Management and Peacebuilding in the coming months, bringing her full-circle in her participant-to-facilitator involvement with TechChange.

Prior to joining TechChange, Jennifer participated in several research symposiums and conferences like the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Methods Research, the Association for the study of the Middle East and Africa Annual Conference and more. She has also served as a guest speaker for the American Red Cross and has mentored several high school and undergraduate students regarding school-sponsored and independent international development and peacebuilding start-ups.

Jennifer is an emerging comparative politics scholar and methodologist focused on answering questions related to individual and community involvement in conflict, post-conflict, and peace processes. She holds a Bachelor’s in Political Science from the Colorado College, a Masters in Public Health from Indiana University, and is a Doctoral Candidate in Political Science with the University of New Mexico.

It may be difficult to see the relevance of 3D Printing beyond maker labs, but its potential to help in international development, and especially humanitarian response should be explored further.

In 2013 alone, there were more than 334 natural disasters around the world resulting in more 100,000 deaths. While the numbers decreased in 2014, in 2015 we are already seeing the devastating effect of the earthquake in Nepal. Not only do natural disasters claim lives, they also disrupt the supply chain, making it difficult for those affected to access basic goods and services. While it may not be applicable in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, 3D printing can help with recovery from a disaster by filling the gap in the supply chain.

3D printing is changing what you can produce and where you can produce it, making it a solution that could meet the needs of people after a humanitarian crisis.
Here is why:

Low cost
3D printers are no longer out of our reach. As they are becoming more sophisticated and affordable and many patents are expiring, there are now a wide range of consumer 3D printers available for purchase. Field Ready launched a pilot in Haiti where they test-manufactured a variety of umbilical clamps, enough to supply a local clinic for a month. Along with that, they also printed a prosthetic hand, items to repair and improve the printers, butterfly needle holders, screwdrivers, pipe clamps, and bottles. Being able to 3D print medical equipment on site can save costs in purchasing and transporting them from outside, allowing the funds to be used for other important resources that need to be delivered.

Not only can 3D printers manufacture basic supplies at a low cost, they are also portable so they can be easily transported anywhere there is a need. Many supplies and materials are delivered to disaster affected areas from off-site, creating wait time and possibilities of the supplies getting damaged in transit. It can be a great relief to know that you can print basic necessities like medical tools, or materials to construct a shelter on-site before more permanent supplies are delivered to you.

Immediate correction
Communication can be difficult during a crisis, and sometimes relief delivery of supplies may not fit the requirements of the needs. In this case, it takes more time and money to correct the situation. With a 3D printer, you can immediately change the design of the product you are imagining and test print multiple versions in a short time until you end up with your desired final product.

While the solutions may sound exciting, we have to be mindful of the fact that disaster-stricken places may not have resources needed to run 3D printers. Electricity, human capital, and availability of raw materials are just a few potential barriers. So, organizations like Field Ready are exploring solar powered 3D printers and have already tested a basic curriculum to teach locals how to design items and use the printers. While there is more to learn on what is possible with 3D printing, the possibilities it offers for humanitarian response are endless.

We will be exploring topics like this and other ways 3D printing is being used for social good, as well as hear from experts who are already using 3D printers in this context and can see its potential for society, in our upcoming course on 3D Printing for Social Good.

There is still time to apply, so I hope you can join us!

Photo credit: Lokesh Todi

On Saturday morning, I woke up to numerous messages on whatsapp and facebook from my friends in India asking me if my family was safe. After listening to a voicemail from a Nepali friend based in Boston, I found out about the earthquake that had hit my country. It didn’t take long after I turned on my computer to see how big the devastation was. My heart sank to my stomach and I was in tears as I mindlessly added credit to my Skype account and repeatedly dialed my parent’s mobile number.

After multiple tries, I was able to get in touch with my family. While I cried throughout the entire call, I was reassured that they were all safe. Fortunately, my family survived this terrible tragedy and was able to stay safe in tents in open spaces near their neighborhood during the more than 100 aftershocks. Unfortunately, however, the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal has swallowed up whole neighborhoods, villages and along with it thousands of people. The death toll is rising as we speak and is estimated to reach around 10,000.

Being this far away from Nepal, I feel very helpless. But technology has allowed me to stay connected with my family and other Nepali communities helping respond to the disaster:

Free Calls to Nepal
Shortly after the earthquake, many phone companies and messaging apps started providing free calls to Nepal. Viber, Skype, and Google Voice are allowing free calls to mobile and landlines in Nepal along with many other phone companies like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and others. This may seem like a small gesture but for a Nepali living abroad, it is a huge relief to be able to constantly contact family members and people requesting and responding to the crisis during this tragic time.

Numerous mapping communities have deployed their teams online to map the crisis in Nepal so that the pleas for help can be detected and resources delivered.

Mapping of damages in Nepal
Map of Damages in Nepal from the earthquake created by SBTF on MicroMappers

I have joined two Atlas Corps Fellows, Medha Sharma, and Luther Jeke to team up with Standby Task Force to help map the affected communities in Nepal by using MicroMappers. Medha and I have reached out to our Nepali networks in and outside of Nepal to help advise the SBTF team by relaying information about ongoing requests for help or offers of assistance. We are also helping translate Nepali tweets, facebook updates, and news articles so that they can be mapped. We have recruited more than 100 Nepali expats and residents to help us with this effort.

Two days ago, I was able to call Dr. Anil Shrestha in Bir Hospital to notify him that we saw his request for a list of medical supplies through Facebook and found a donor willing to provide them. We have connected the two parties and are awaiting confirmation from Dr. Shrestha that he has received the supplies from the Kathmandu airport. You can read about the Standby Task Force’s other small successes here. If you would like to join the SBTF team or have experience living in Nepal and know the community, please email me at to join this effort.

Kathmandu Living Labs is leading the mapping efforts on the group in Nepal, but you can also join the mapping effort for Nepal relief with Maptime DC, Tomnod, or Humanitarian OpenStreetMap.

Online Fundraisers
Many organizations and individuals have started fundraisers online to allow the global community to help in Nepal’s recovery.

Two of the alumni from my high school have started a fundraiser on Indiegogo that will direct the funds to local NGOs that may not have connections outside of Nepal to raise a lot of money.

Facebook has launched a campaign to match donations of up to $2 million to the efforts in Nepal. Phone companies have made it easy to donate to the earthquake relief in Nepal through your mobile phones:

  • AT&T customers, text “NEPAL” to 864233 to make a $10 donation to UNICEF
  • T-Mobile customers, text NEPAL to 20222 to donate $10 to Save the Children
  • Verizon customers, text “REDCROSS” to 9999 to donate $10 to The Red Cross

Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, are playing an important role in the response to the earthquake in Nepal too. Because of a shortage of manned helicopters, the effects of the earthquakes in the most rural parts of Nepal are still unknown, and this is where drones will step in, allowing manned helicopters to continue with rescue missions.

Here is a drone footage of Kathmandu after the earthquake taken by Kishor Rana’s drone.

UAViators founder Patrick Meier said that if you have a drone and want to help, get in touch with the Humanitarian UAV Network and read the Network’s Code of Conduct to help with this effort.

This is the worst earthquake to hit Nepal in 80 years, and the many pictures online show the devastating effect it had on my country. The damages are worst in the areas that have not yet been reached by media or rescue teams. The consequences of this tragedy will affect my country long after the media turns its attention away and we need all the help to rebuild.

If you are a mapper or own a drone, please volunteer your time and skills and join one of the online communities. You can also donate online. You don’t have to go to Nepal to help, in fact, please don’t, unless you are a trained professional for crisis situations. You can do your part to help Nepal with the help of ICTs from wherever you are.

If you are interested in learning how social media and technology is helping in disaster response, join us in our upcoming course on Technology for Disaster Response that begins on June 22.

By Samita Thapa and Sara Pitcairn

The possibilities for 3D printing are endless. While this may scare some of us, the potential for innovation is exactly what excites us here at TechChange! Imagine being able to quickly manufacture reconstruction materials for disaster response, 3D print homes in refugee camps, or 3D print a human heart to save a life.

But this cutting-edge innovation can also seem difficult to wrap your head around. How does it work? How do you begin? Here is an example of how an idea can become a product through 3D printing:

Dr. Boris Paskhover at the Yale School of Medicine saw a need for a portable transnasal laryngoscope with image and video capture capabilities. A transnasal laryngoscope is a handheld medical device that allows Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) physicians to examine a patient’s voice box and diagnose and treat ENT disorders (such as cancer of the throat or thyroid). But the equipment that captures images and videos from a laryngoscope, an endoscopic tower, is expensive and difficult to transport, making it infeasible for use outside of a hospital setting.

Laryngoscope and Endoscopic Tower

Dr. Paskhover imagined an easier way to visualize the results of a laryngoscope examination. By using his Phone camera and an app called Luma to produce higher quality video and pictures, he could see the results anywhere. To start with, he created a makeshift attachment to secure a laryngoscope to his iPhone case. But ideally, he imagined a more robust solution for his work in rural settings outside the U.S.

Dr. Paskhover's make-shift  attachment for his iPhone 4 case

Dr. Paskhover’s make-shift attachment for his iPhone 4 case

He worked with Sara Pitcairn, TechChange’s Co-Director of Instructional Design, during her senior year at Yale University to bring his idea to life. Through an iterative, human-centered design process, Sara modeled, prototyped and 3D printed an iPhone case with an interface aligning the eyepiece of a laryngoscope with an iPhone camera. The iphone case allowed Dr. Paskhover to capture high-quality photos and videos of his exams with patients without the need for an endoscopic tower.

Designing and testing the 3D printed iPhone case

3D Print

See the 3D printed iPhone case in action:

This is one of many examples of how 3D printing is helping fill gaps that exist in healthcare. There are countless applications in other fields, and especially in disaster response and international development.

Do you have other examples of how 3D printing is being used in your communities? Share them with us in the comments section or tweet at us @TechChange

If you are are interested in learning more about the potential 3D printing offers in your field, join Sara in our upcoming course on 3D Printing for Social Good. We will look at applications of 3D printing in a variety of contexts, along with the challenges and opportunities as the field continues to advance. After the four weeks of the course, you will have a solid understanding of 3D printing so that you can see its potential for your field of practice. We will look at case studies and examples of where 3D printing is being used today and will help you find a maker community, as well as connect you with experts using 3D printing for social good.

The course begins on May 4, we hope you can join us!