iSTEP 2009 Team Experience
Posted August 17, 2009on:
It’s been almost 3 weeks since the end of the iSTEP 2009 internship. TechBridgeWorld has been busy working with the media on getting the word out about the internship’s success. We have also been busy finalizing the iSTEP 2009 Report (now available!). Below is an excerpt from the final report, which highlights the overall iSTEP 2009 team experience:
The iSTEP internship was designed to give Carnegie Mellon students and recent graduates the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to address real-world challenges. Furthermore, the multidisciplinary and globally distributed nature of the team allowed interns to draw on the different strengths of their teammates and take advantage of resources available in different geographic locations.
iSTEP also gave interns the opportunity to give back and positively impact three Tanzanian communities. Rotimi reflects, “Seldom does one get an internship experience that allows students to conduct research and find their own solutions to problems that positively impact developing communities in the world.”
The iSTEP 2009 interns faced many challenges and frustrations at the start – partly because they were pioneers of a new internship program and partly because they were dealing with a new environment and culture. Brad affirms, “When I arrived in Tanzania, the pace surprised me. It’s not that I worked too little – in fact, I probably worked more than normal. Rather, things just took a lot longer to get done. This is because there is less control over the environment and less understanding of the conditions.”
Furthermore, for most of the interns, this was their first experience conducting field research, “Field research, in my opinion, is a struggle. Field research involving people is even tougher. There are so many unknowns that it is impossible to anticipate everything,” states Beatrice.
Despite all of this, a valuable skill the interns acquired is to adapt to their surroundings. “The timeline I had originally created for myself changed as we started talking with the communities. I realized very quickly that I needed to be more open to plans changing and not being able to predict my work timeline,” adds Rotimi.
The interns also valued and appreciated the importance of working closely with the communities. Hatem advises, “Regardless of how wonderful and powerful the technology solution is, community involvement is the most important. Technology cannot overcome challenges on its own – rather – the community and its people are the ones who can transform the technology into a solution.”
An important lesson learned was that everything cannot be solved in a 10-week internship, “This has been an ongoing theme, as repeatedly through the internship we have had to stop and take reality checks and pick out the things that we will not be able to accomplish before the term is over.”
While the interns realized everything could not be accomplished in 10 weeks, they were optimistic about the future of the projects. Dan adds, “The fact that the project was too big for 10 weeks was not a bad thing – I enjoyed sinking my teeth into it, and I hope I have started work that others will continue.”
On behalf of the iSTEP 2009 and TechBridgeWorld teams, we would like to thank you for reading! We would also like to thank our partners, advisors, and many others for their contributions to making the inaugural iSTEP a success.