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Finals are winding down, and the student teams are ready to embark on their trips. The logistics of getting 20 students to 5 locations is quite a challenge for Patell and David Beach, who co-teaches the course. “Four is the magic number,” Patell says, as he can fit two men and two women into two hotel rooms and one jeep. Add any more to the group and costs skyrocket for larger vehicles and more accommodations. And since the class is all about extreme affordability, paying attention to costs must remain paramount.

Assigning two teams to the same project could heat up the competition. “In this case it’s all about knowledge sharing,” Patell says. “Basically, we’re getting an effective eight heads on each project instead of four.” After the trip, one team may focus on one aspect—say water pumps—while the other pursues water collection and storage.

“The whole point of the class is to change the rules and the landscape,” says Nate Meng, a medical school grad student. “We’re trained to look at things from a different perspective.” He explains that his team has been asked to come up with two proposals upon returning from their visit:

• A Blue Sky project. This is a product or service that looks far ahead. Something like: If a factory can be built here, then local residents can manufacture the water pumps that they would use to farm their own fields. It’s a big-picture scenario that is possible but requires more long-term planning.

• A product that quickly can be brought to market. This team is to come up with a product that can be conceived and completed in the timeframe of the remaining quarter.

Meng and his teammates—Laura Jones, MBA Class of 2009, and Isaac Penny, a mechanical engineering student—are the only three-person team in the class. Jones and Penny will be making the trip to Myanmar and recently started researching water collection as well as preventing deadly venomous snake bites while farmers are working in rice paddies. It is also the team with the insulated bag for its field kit.

Each team sent two of its members on the trips and will meet in early April to review the information collected in the field.

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Also on Stanford Knowledgebase:

  1. Team Members Return from Trips Energized, Ready to Tackle Projects
  2. Listening to Real Customers
  3. From Understanding and Observing to an Established Vision

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