“We tell people, ‘We’re going to change the world,'” says Anna Jaffe. “And maybe it’s because we’re young, but people rarely say, ‘You’re going to do what?'”
Jaffe hasn’t changed the world yet, but the 22-year-old student may well be on her way.
Two years ago, she, along with Robyn Allen and Nii Armar, launched the Vehicle Design Summit, a collaboration that included 25 college teams from across the globe to build within three years a plug-in electric hybrid car. More than 50 students from 21 universities came to MIT to create the first Design Summit, run entirely by students. For the second Summit, more than 250 students, now working globally, met in China, India, Belgium, Italy, and the U.S. Their global slogan was: “We are the people we have been waiting for.”
“We’re hoping the vehicle will show a 95 percent reduction in embodied energy, materials, and toxicity,” Jaffe says, adding that she hopes it also will also provide 200 miles per gallon energy equivalency or better.”
During the first Summit in 2006, students designed and built four vehicles run by solar, biofuels, and human power. Soon after, the driving prototypes achieved efficiencies between 60 and 300 mile per gallon energy equivalency.
Jaffe says that in addition to creating a high-mileage vehicle, the team also plans to design the seats, drive train, steering, and engine. And she expects that the $9,000 vehicle will be fully tested, validated, and ready for production in India by the end of 2009.
Jaffe, a civil and environmental engineering major who travels around Cambridge by subway, says her career goal is to work with others to create a green sustainable future.
“When you talk with people, they say, ‘Oh, there are a million great ideas, but none of them ever happen.’ This one is happening.
“It has a little to do with our work, but it has a lot to do with being at MIT, where the people expect you to do great things. When you’re expected to do great things, you do.
“This is probably the most incredible learning opportunity of my life. I’ve learned how to advocate my ideas, talk to CEOs and gain their respect. I learned how to find people around the world who care about a green future, how to reach them, and how to balance traveling around the world and raising money, with doing my schoolwork.
“Our biggest goal is to inspire other people with big ideas. If the Vehicle Design Summit were to fail, but lots of other groups were to spring up around the world, that would still be a success. We really cannot fail.”