Reunion Film, Class of 1951

Andover: Old School, New Ideas

A 65th class reunion June 10-11 has prompted the production of a film, aside from reporting on the reunion, that will narrate the enormous changes occurring in high school education in the years since 1951.  Click on this link to see the 7-minute preview of that film:

The class of ’51 meets at Phillips Academy, Andover for its 65th class reunion. Many have already passed away, but the joy of seeing old friends, visiting old places, supersedes any  sorrow, and the alumni come, eager to see how things are at the old school.

Very quickly, the alums are tossed into the reality of what the school is today, how it has changed from the old days. Co-ed dorms. Fantastic facilities in all areas, from new sports fields and arenas –to, what really overwhelms the alums, the great changes in educational facilities AND practices. A revolution has occurred, and not noted often enough…

The students are still burdened with great amounts of homework, BUT now new challenges and opportunities are available unheard of and undreamed of back in 1951. The scholastic challenge is symbolized by the newly created Tang Institute – a school-based center designed to encourage students to undertake great experimentation, with funds provided by the center for students to seize global opportunities, to study matters of particular interest to the individual, either here or abroad. Teachers too are encouraged to dream a dream and seek to make it a teaching reality. The most modern facilities offering the most modern means of communication are available for all to use – distance learning, language labs – whatever, are all now available to the undergrad as well as the teacher.

But what will impress any reunion class is what is offered to the students in what they call “The Nest”, a learning space dedicated within the Oliver Wendell Holmes school library. There students are encouraged and helped to work with some of the most advanced technological tools.

This is hands-on application of the most modern of systems, to produce a positive outcome. In this case a specific project is designed to help a peer of the Andover students living thousands of miles away in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. He lost his leg when he was a young boy and has been hobbled and crippled ever since. This project just might give him new hope – not fomented by a government bureaucracy or using tax payer funds. But funds privately raised within the Andover community, and young students who on their own have gained the incredibly complex technical knowledge making such dreams possible. All on their own. No test, no required reading – “You are on your own” they are told. You may use school facilities, and you might find people both within the Andover community as well as outside it, who will give advice and help. But that’s all.

So the students ask themselves: can he be fitted with a foot, using a 3D printer? This is a typical challenge MANY experts around the world are struggling with. And now so are the bright young students at Andover. They are reaching out to private sector developers in the US, to academic institutions here and abroad, to find a way to respond to the challenge. They tentatively plan a trip to Mongolia to witness first hand the challenges and needs of the individual. In a sense, this is a person-to-person individual foreign aid program – only it is not run by large bureaucracies, government agencies, and full blown adults. It is run by bright young people with a vision and a drive.

It is being done by high school students… the class of ’51 is overwhelmed and pledges support. Few things are more inspiring than what this young generation of students are doing. Instead of despair and hopelessness, there is optimism and enthusiasm for the future.  In fact, the plan has already evolved to the point where the establishment of a 3D printing facility may be created in Mongolia, a nation with no serious prosthetic device production facility – yet with over 10,000 people lacking limbs as a result of their hard existence as nomads in the remote regions of the country. Communications have already taken place with entrepreneurs in the US and Mongolia.

The old folk of the class of ’51 are re-energized. With this generation coming up, there is reason for optimism for the world and for the future.

One often hears how Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard after two years to go out and do great things.

These kids are 2-3 years younger … What a future,  with young people such as these doing the planning ….!

That will be a principal theme of the film.  While reporting on the events of the reunion, it will also  explore all that is happening in modern education, the enthusiasm and positive accomplishments of today’s youth. It shows that that the world is OK and is going to be in  good hands. These are some of the things the class of 1951 will have observed during their stay….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judging a Youth Competition

Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge

I  enjoyed working as one of the five judges for the Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge Finals this afternoon in DC. The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) DC Region organized presentations for five high school top students from low income families in Greater DC Area who introduced their business plans. Judge like me were drawn from the business world, academia, etc. The ultimate winner was Carlton Baker with “Fix Yo Kicks” providing affordable, high-quality shoe restorations. He was awarded a seed capital investment prize of $1,500. He started when he was a 7th grader, cleaning tennis shoes for his schoolmates… and now he has a thriving small business restoring old tennis shoes.

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Contestant Cintia Samaha explaining her business proposal.

Andover: Old School, New Ideas

So what’s a Foundation to do when it has a successful film production company under its wing?

Well, for starters, make a movie motivated by good intentions and intellectual pursuits…

So how about a film reporting what would appear to be a pretty routine topic – a High School class reunion… Sounds pretty routine, right?

But what a minute – first of all, this class reunion is the 65th at Phillips Academy, Andover…many are already departed to the great beyond…many hobble around as best they can, and may have trouble hearing or seeing…

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Andover campus                                                                  Photo credit: Phillips Academy, Andover

 

But maybe that makes it special. They have been around long enough to know that perhaps what they are seeing when they revisit their school so many years after entering it as freshmen, is truly revolutionary… observing significant changes in generations and the impact those changes are having on society.

When viewing this on a shorter range, changes creep up and are not particularly noticed. But try coming back after 65 years, and WHAM – It really hits you what is going on. And maybe the short term glance discourages some: “What’s happening to this generation?”. But take the long term look and Wow – these kids are doing some remarkable, revolutionary things, and no one is noticing. It takes a 65th reunion to do that!

For example, wander into a lab in the library (yes, a lab in the library, designed to give students a chance to explore the world from their own perspective).

It’s called The Nest, and is one of the first things to jump out at you – these kids are working with 3D Printers, at the very leading edge of modern technology, trying to devise a prosthetic device for a crippled young man who lost a leg thousands of miles away, in Mongolia.

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The Gobi desert, Mongolia

A great deal of attention has suddenly been drawn to this.  The “sixty-fivers” are pledging support.  The class of ’51 is looking forward, not backward. It is seized by the enthusiasm of those half a century younger.  Indeed, the world is, and should be, filled with hope for the future…

click on this link  to view the trailer, which has received many very positive reactions:

http://andoverfilm.com

Title of the film: “Andover: Old School, New Ideas”.

 

To Change The World of Prosthetic Devices

Blogs…I’m not even sure I know what a Blog is, but here I am writing my first… and people say it HAS to capture your (the reader’s) attention. Otherwise, don’t bother.

So what grabs you? I can tell you one thing that really has grabbed my attention, to  become a driving force for me…

I want to beat Bill Gates….

He finished high school and went to Harvard for two years before he found himself, quit and went on to other things….

Here is my story about how I want to beat him…

Some 15 years ago, while I was working in Mongolia, I came across two children. One, an infant girl born in a nomad family, with a seriously deformed hip. Today she is a grown young lady, riding reindeer, running, walking, doing all the things a young lady does.

We had brought her to the US for extensive surgery (paid for by the generous Mel Gibson Foundation) and after some six months of that she went back to Mongolia to become what she is today.

father and daughter whose leg we fixed

Father and Bilguun shortly before surgery

Bilguun (crippled child we helped)

Bilguun ten years after surgery

But now my attention has turned to the other child, which had its genesis about the same time. I had come across a young boy, also born to a very modest family, seriously deformed, with two club feet.

We repeated the experience.  Brought him to the US.  At Children’s Hospital they successfully straightened one of his feet, but the other one could not be helped. It was decided he would be better off if the foot were amputated and he were fitted with a prosthetic device. It worked until, alas, he outgrew that device, and no replacement could be found.

He had to turn to a crutch to replace the lost foot.

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Enkh-Amar, as child with two club feet

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Enkh-Amar with his host family in Los Angeles, awaiting surgery

When I heard how this story had developed, he had become a grown young man, and no one in Mongolia nor any social service organization, was in a position to help him. Suitable prosthetic devices which would possibly fit were in China, Korea or the US, all prohibitively expensive.  And even those were doubtful because, as I learned, prosthetic feet were very tricky things.

Meanwhile, I had gone on my way as well, and ended up creating a small family foundation dedicated to helping the less fortunate.

When I heard this story and its sad twists, I began to wonder if something couldn’t again be done to help this boy, Enkh-Amar…

Another quick change of scenery:

Suddenly I am an OLD man!!!  I am about to attend my 65th (yes, 65th) class reunion at the school I attended, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.

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Quite frankly, I was a bit overwhelmed to see what today’s kids are doing in high schools such as Andover.  In the course of exploring the school, and preparing a short film report on our reunion class, I witnessed many of the things going on at the school.

I was brought up with start when I visited what Andover calls “the Nest”.  It is in fact an incubator for students to experiment with whatever ideas and interests they might have…and one of the ways, I learned, was through the use of 3D printer technology.

Here to my amazement I found students doing incredible things with the tools at their disposal.  These are KIDS! High school kids…!

A thought occurred….could a foot be created with a 3D printer….

The response of both students and the Nest’s inspirational leader, Mike Barker, blew my mind… Let’s give it a try, they said….hands and other body parts were already being made with 3D technology, but not feet.

So here they are…high school kids, seizing an incredible opportunity using very high technology, to do some real good in a real live situation – almost like a government foreign aid program without the bureaucracy!

AND….SEVERAL YEARS YOUNGER THAN BILL GATES!

Even as this is being written, a net is spreading, seeking individuals, organizations,  businesses, scholars from the Smithsonian to the top universities, which might have some experience with this.  Mongolians in Mongolia have rallied as well.

The first objective is to find the means and knowledge to create a model foot suitable for duplication, so that a prosthetic device can be fitted. And of course, the ultimate goal is to make that prosthetic device using 3D printers. If successful, this would literally bring down the cost of prosthetic devices from tens of thousands of dollars, to as little as tens of dollars.

AND THEN –  if all this works out, let the Mongolians take over, create a positive entity in Mongolia to manufacture such articles.

What is to be gained? Rich and poor alike would be served, and Mongolia, a long under-developed country would suddenly become a leader in this critical field using leading edge technology. American students would be helping their peers in a very distant and under-developed land.

My foundation will help in this process.  But anyone interested in helping will be greeted warmly.  It will be a costly start – but the rewards enormous. Already Andover’s young reps are thinking of going there this summer to interact with their counterparts as solutions are sought.

Help would be needed. Already we have found interest within the Smithsonian, the business community, and academia. The idea challenges the creative imagination.

If you have any ideas or thoughts you might contribute, or if you just wish to contribute, please write or call me: 703-309-1979 or write: Ed.nef@nef-foundation.org. I’d really like to hear from you.

P.S.

Anyone know Bill Gates?! Maybe he’d be interested in helping some who are even younger than he was when he got his start…