Innovation

‘Academies-in-a-Box’ Are Thriving—But Are They the Best Way to School the World’s Poor?

An estimated 2.5 billion people on the planet live on less than $2 a day. Is it possible to give the younger ones a high-quality private education?

One company says yes. Bridge International Academies, a for-profit franchise of private schools founded in 2007 in Kenya, is trying to transform “knowledge for all” into a cost-effective reality. Its answer: the “academy-in-a-box.”

In on the Ground Floor: Would My Investment in a Friend’s Scheme Really Seal My Fortune?

Graduation was near and other seniors were scrambling for work. I knew I was set. I had met a brilliant entrepreneur and was investing my time and savings in his sure-fire venture that guaranteed me both a job and untold millions.

His plan was literally airtight: Create a device that would improve upon the highest volume manufactured product—the sealed bags used for everything from dry macaroni to potato chips.

And what was wrong with those bags? They weren’t re-sealable.

From the Spring 2014 Branding issue of California.

Welcome to iTown: Berkeley Designer Imagines What If Silicon Valley Housed All Its Employees

Alfred Twu says he got inspired by a friend who, after taking a job at a major tech firm in the South Bay, decided to save on rent by living out of his van in the company parking lot.

“The company had showers and food, so all he needed was a place to sleep,” says Twu, a designer who works for Berkeley Student Cooperative. “He would wake up in the morning and notice all the other vans in the parking lot like his.”

Drivin’ on Sunshine: Cal Team Is Crafting Solar-Powered Car for National Race

As flocks of wild turkeys and geese look on, about 50 members of the UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team—aka CalSol—are laboring from dawn to dusk every day at the Richmond Field Station, a 152-acre lot six miles northwest of campus. Their goal: the construction of “Zephyr,” a solar-powered car that can cruise along at 55 miles per hour on only the energy needed for a portable hairdryer.

It’s Cal’s latest entry in an international collegiate competition that has been going on since the early 1990s, before many of CalSol’s current members were born.

Feeding Forward: Giving Us the Power to Fight Hunger From Our Phones

Time has borne out the veracity of the Biblical observation that poor will always be with us—and so, too, are well-meaning efforts to feed the famished. But success in getting food to the hungry has been spotty at best. Now, a group of idealistic Cal students is bringing high tech to bear on the problem, producing an approach that is propagating across the country.

Gadzooks, MOOCs!

“I’ve been rereading Christensen a lot,” says Armando Fox. The Berkeley computer science professor is referring to business guru Clayton Christensen, famous for his research on how innovations can unsettle existing institutions. For example, how the PC upended the market for mainframes, or how the new business and publishing dynamics of the Internet have thrown traditional media companies into turmoil. Now Christensen warns that higher education will face its own disruption in the form of online learning.

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

Riding the iBomb: Welcome to Life in the Age of Exploding Information

The Acxiom Corporation has me down as Arab.

Acxiom is a commercial data broker based in Little Rock, Arkansas, a Big Data company that builds consumer profiles by aggregating information from various public and consumer databases. It then packages and sells that information to marketers who want to more accurately target ads to consumers. One of Acxiom’s slogans is “Stop Guessing. Start Knowing.”

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

Metal Machine Music

From autoworkers to telephone operators, many employees have lost their jobs to robots. Could session musicians be next? It’s more likely than you might think. A trio of Berkeley researchers is developing computer programs that can hold their own with the best jazz artists.

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

Tracking Transit

The question at the center of Daniel Chatman’s latest paper seems like it already should have been answered: Just how much is public transportation worth to a city? Although city planning papers had examined public transit’s financial effects before, Chatman, an assistant professor of city and regional planning, found none researched the link between public transportation, worker productivity, and increased wages. That gap led Chatman to create a model that could accurately predict the financial benefits different public transit systems bring to the cities they serve.

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

Wrangling Big Data

Imagine a website that could offer you personalized medical advice. You could log on and input your symptoms and medical history. The program would then compare your situation to that of other people with a similar condition, perhaps analyze your genotype, consult with a few hundred doctors as necessary, and then provide you with a diagnosis and treatment recommendation.

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

“Fund Me:” Researchers who can’t get corporate funding forced to get creative

With government funding more scarce, corporations have stepped in to underwrite an increasing amount of research in academia—as we’ve reported, industry now accounts for about 10 percent of funding for research at UC Berkeley, double the percentage it was two decades ago. But what about the iconoclastic researchers—the ones whose work is either irrelevant to, or at cross-purposes with, the profit-minded interests of corporate funders?

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