JeepNeed builds Biodiesel-fueled mobile science labs for rural high schools in the Philippines – U can help.

My friend Dr. Dennis Cheek introduced me to Shaina Tantuico. I met Dennis in 2006 when he was the Vice President of Education at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and I was just starting out at Linden Lab. Dennis mentors some very talented education entrepreneurs. So I was intrigued to meet Shaina in person and learn more about her venture — JeepNeed. I knew from Dennis that JeepNeed was one of the six finalists out of 200 applicants in the 2010 Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition (The 2011 competition has just been announced–deadline for submissions is Dec. 3). Shaina shared with me designs for transforming a cultural icon, the Jeepney, into a mobile science lab to bring STEM education to rural high schools in the Philippines. She explained that only 51% of Philippine high schools have science labs with most of those in private schools and government-owned magnet schools. Only 11% of all schools in the Philippines are connected to the internet–lower than the international average of 35%, and lower than the Philippine’s neighbor Thailand where 55% of the schools are connected. Shaina attended Mount Holyoke College, and during a fellowship there, she did some research that inspired the JeepNeed vision.

I did a small scale research project with the Weed Fellowship that framed the way I thought about education last summer. I interviewed students who lived below the poverty line and made it to college. They were creative, resilient, and powerful. JeepNeed is an attempt at embodying all the factors that helped these students succeed.

Shaina and her project partner Erika Pineda, both natives of the Philippines,  wanted to give something back to their community and the JeepNeed mobile classroom idea was born. Shaina and Erika have funded the first biodiesel-fueled Jeepney out of their own savings. Check out the prototype designs and learn more about Jeepneys at their partner’s site, The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities

But the big and urgent news is that they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for a second vehicle. You can read their Kickstarter project updates from the Philippines here. If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, you should be. It’s the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world–crowdfunding at its best. I’ve discovered some extraordinary projects there. And if you haven’t practiced crowdfunding yet on Kickstarter, JeepNeed can be a great project to get your Crowdfunder feet wet. Follow Shaina and Erika’s JeepNeed adventures on Twitter. (That’s Erika in the photo with Samuel Guevara, vegetable oil engine guru and JeepNeed mentor.)

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