A virtual exchange program at Lord Fairfax Community College hosted a visit Monday from the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.
The program is Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge, a 10-week virtual exchange program in which 19 students at Lord Fairfax Community College worked with a team of students from Khawarizmi College in Jordan. Global Solutions is supported by the Stevens Initiative, a program administered by the Aspen Institute, which is sponsored and funded by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by IREX, a global development and education association.
Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce visited the school and met with the American and — via Skype — the Jordanian teams.
Representatives from the Aspen Institute and IREX traveled with the students.
The students, working internationally using Skype, Facebook and email, came up with an invention they called BottleBot.
“This is one of the most successful projects I have heard about,” Royce said. “Very impressive. Good job.”
Rachel Stange, a dual-enrollment student, was part of the leadership team of six. Stange is a senior at Sherando High School and is enrolled in science courses at the community college.
Stange told Royce and the other officials that the two teams came up with about 60 possible project ideas dealing with sustainability.
“Plastic waste was common to both [countries],” Stange said.
BottleBot, she said, is a solar-powered machine in which a bottle is inserted. The machine scans the bottle to make sure it is a bottle that can be accepted. The approved bottle is then compacted. The person depositing the bottle could then either get money back or credit to be used to purchase services or goods at a business. The compacted plastic would then be sold to companies that can use it as building material.
A physical prototype of the machine is being built at the college based on designs from Jordan. The actual production of BottleBot is planned for Jordan.
The team created a branding statement — “Give Back Get Back” — to help in marketing BottleBot, which will be unveiled at the Global Solutions Summit in Washington, D.C., March 7-11
Royce asked questions of both groups of students questions, such as how did they get funding and what skills did they think they learned.
Students’ answers included communication, leadership skills, marketing and business skills.
“All valuable skills,” Royce said. And she wanted to know what learned about each other.
The Jordanian students said they found that their American counterparts were humble, patient and helpful. The LFCC students had an extreme commitment to the project, they said.
The American students said they felt the students from Jordan had the same traits as well as being smart and hardworking.
“When people know each other, the world is a safer place,” Royce said. “By getting to know each other and working together, I hope the connections made today last a lifetime.”