Cultural Considerations and Engineering Projects - Seth and Ivy Leavitt-Carlson (Laconia School District, Peace Corps)

An engineering solution does not exist within a vacuum, but is affected by that fluctuating and inconsistent bundle of irrationally that is humanity. Odds are that you share a common pool of irrationally, your culture, with your clients and fellow students here in the United States. However, once overseas (or even down the street) you will encounter people whose respective common irrationality is confounding to you. Countless projects, including the most altruistic, fail because they do not take into account the culture of the people that they are designed to help. Often with the best intentions, we can attempt to solve problems for people rather than with people. We aim to investigate this common and challenging problem and to impart some strategies for recognizing and working with cultural differences

Biography - Seth and Ivy Leavitt-Carlson (Laconia School District, Peace Corps): 
Seth and Ivy Leavitt-Carlson served in the Peace Corps in South Africa in 2005-07. Having previously been teachers in rural New Hampshire, they worked with the teachers of their South African community to move from Apartheid-era teaching practices and philosophies towards teaching for empowerment and understanding. As School Resource Volunteers, they had many “great ideas” that flopped until they rethought their attack and refocused, basing their projects on the tenant that the key to successful projects and community change is working within the framework and culture of the people being served. They are currently teachers at Laconia High School, in Laconia, NH and fortunately returned to South Africa for two weeks in July 2009 with eight students from the LHS Key Club, a high school volunteer group that they facilitate.