During the recently concluded trip to Boston, USA for the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) TechCon 2016 event at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), part of the RAN team comprised of Dr. Roy William Mayega, Mr. Nathan Tumuhamye, Ms. Harriet Adong, and Ms. Deborah Naatujuna benefited from a rich engagement opportunity with the “Active learning labs” based at the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the “Global Health Education and Learning Incubator (GHELI) at Harvard University. This engagement was on November 14, 2016.

The first visit was to the “Active Learning Labs” at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Ms. Madeline Hickman who is the design specialist in mechanical engineering led the team through a guided tour in all the lab spaces. It was a truly illuminating experience, the RAN team appreciated the well-stocked lab spaces at Harvard with specialized equipment that allows students to explore and prototype their projects such as millingmachines which may be manually operated, mechanically automated or digitally automated via computer numerical control and can perform a vast number of operations, from simple keyway cutting, drilling to complex tasks like contouring and die-sinking. The lab also had a range of 3D rapid prototyping machines offering modern, fast and low-cost methods for building concepts and working models and many other technical tools stacked in different rooms. These rapid prototyping resources are shared across many undergraduate courses supported in the Active Learning Labs and the lab is open to all students and faculty to come in and work on their individual or team based projects. To the RAN Innovation lab, this engagement was very strategic, discussions gravitated towards collaborating with active labs especially in facilitating the RAN monthly innovation garage sessions aimed at catalyzing engineering solutions. The team brainstormed on possible ways to share some tutorials or delivering remote sessions where possible. It was also a great learning experience especially on how best to equip, organize and operationalize the current fabrication lab at RAN.

After this short visit, the team moved to the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator (GHELI) led by Ms. Hessica Haung a PhD student at Harvard and formerly working with MIT D-lab.The Learning Incubator inspires and supports innovative learning, teaching, and dialogue about cutting-edge, multidisciplinary global challenges. It is well positioned to foster and evaluate new pedagogical tools and instructional strategies that bridge disciplinary fields, educational spaces, and groups of learners. Through the deliberative design of inclusive learning spaces to gather, collaborate and spark unexpected discussions, the Incubator encourages transformative thinking across disciplines while breaking down conceptual and geographic boundaries.

The RAN Team was warmly welcomed by Dr. Sue Goldie who is the Faculty Director, Terry Aldjem and Nina Bhattacharya. They highlighted that the incubator’s key pillars are;

o   Digital Repository: GHELI is building a digital space to find multimodal resources for teachers and learners. This library is a place to find resources and is also represent the incubators work to curate and disseminate high quality educational public goods. Through collaborative partnerships, they co-produce and contextualize print, digital and multimedia resources for different learners, academic disciplines exemplifying an interdisciplinary approach toward learning and teaching about global health.

o   The Global Learning Studio: This is a place to tinker, where teachers and students can explore, experiment and innovate with creative multimedia approaches that inspire novel pedagogy, and contribute to an emerging visual grammar for teaching and learning. The package Global Health issues in short videos.

o   Pilots and Programs: The lab incubates instructional models that promote interdisciplinary and integrative learning. They support field testing of novel ideas prior to implementation and scale-up. They strike projects and exchanges with public health institutions in the country. It could include short residences of faculty of 1-3 months.

This was also a great opportunity for the RAN team to share a high level summary of the labs’ accomplishments over the last 4 years, highlighting that it is headquartered at Makerere University College of Health Sciences in the School of Public Health. It is a cross disciplinary network of 18 universities from 13 countries with the mandate of improving the resilience of communities in sub-Saharan Africa through incubation and scaling of solutions. The team noted that what makes RAN unique is the deep community engagement to prioritize their needs and that innovators and students are supported to go to the field for Ethnography and needfinding studies so as to develop solutions that are in sync with the target user’s needs. The RAN innovation portfolio has grown to 144 innovations and key achievements in the global health domain like the in-house development of the “EpiTent” innovation that drastically reduces temperature by 7degrees were mentioned. This tent can be used as a portable hospital in times of emergencies or a shelter for refugee camps. The RAN team also shared that the lab’s third objective is knowledge sharing and content is currently packaged into short informative videos referred to as Modular Knowledge and Information Transaction Systems (MKITS) http://www.ranlab.org/modular-knowledge-and-information-transaction-systems-mkits-challenge-2016 which resonates with what GHELI is doing now building digital repository of resources.

Synergies and opportunities for collaboration were discussed among other things such as;

·         Capacity building – How to create high value re-usable objects like utilizing RAN’s MKITs to create learning modules.

·         RAN would give GHELI access to the current collection of short videos and footage archived on resilience issues, innovation management, research activities like Deliberative Polling (DP) and any other relevant content.

·         To discuss a robust platform to host the videos (Taxonomy, naming). RAN is having challenges coining an appropriate platform that can promote learning and accountability.

·         Promote student collaboration.

·         GHELI to share expertise in packaging research findings into Infographics that are easily interpreted and understood.

·         Share tips on packaging Global Health issues using videos to promote visual learning and consumption of such complex issues in an attractive format.

It was a rich knowledge generation and sharing opportunity characterized with cross learning.  All parties were very excited about the opportunities that immediately opened up for collaborative work in Global health, Engineering, Innovation among others and looked forward to harnessing some of them for the benefit of the communities in need.