Thanks to Angelica Weiner, a 19-year-old sophomore from Marlboro, New Jersey, 150 women in the fourth largest city in Ecuador will now have basic computer skills.

Last year, Weiner dreamed up a computer project, which she designed and implemented, to teach PowerPoint, Word, and Excel to 10 to 20- year-old women at a trade school in Ambato.

“Everybody learned a lot,” says Weiner, adding, “The one who learned the most was me.”

Weiner flew to Ecuador, where she worked with local companies to get IBM computers donated to the school. Next, she worked with a crew to install the computers, then designed lessons to incorporate computer education into the school’s curriculum, and also taught the women to type. And she taught the lessons all in Spanish.
“The one who learned the most was me.”

“The most challenging thing was needing to completely redesign my lesson plans when I entered the classroom. The girls’ computer skills were much lower than I was expecting,” says Weiner, adding that the girls struggled with the most basic skills, like switching on the computer, and opening and closing windows. “At first, most girls didn’t know how to click a mouse. Now they have great skills and are more marketable. The knowledge gives them more options and more independence to find better jobs.”

Weiner, who taught the girls six hours a day for two months last year, says by the end of the term, the students were touch typing, making PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets, and were closing computer windows with confidence.

Weiner was glad the girls made great progress but was concerned that after she returned to the United States, all her efforts would be forgotten. To be sure the girls’ education would continue she worked with a local non-governmental agency, which agreed to hire a part-time teacher to continue the classes. This summer, Weiner plans to return to Ecuador to visit the students and to be sure the computer education program is progressing.

Weiner, who loves entrepreneurship and studies urban studies and planning, says that next she would like to work on a larger-scale project like promoting entrepreneurship in other cities around the world.

“I want to work on a development project or a city plan that promotes sustainability and creates opportunities for lots of people,” she says. “I feel my job on earth is to help make the world a better place.”

A few former MIT students who went on to do great things

H. Robert Horvitz ’68, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Col. Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin Sc.D. ’63, among the first to walk on the moon
I.M. Pei ’40, architect of entrance to the Louvre, Paris, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
Daniel Chester French 1871, architect of the Lincoln Memorial
John Thain ’77, CEO, New York Stock Exchange
John Reed ’61, former Chairman, New York Stock Exchange
Kofi Annan SM ’72, Nobel Peace Prize
Sheila Widnall ’60, former Secretary of the United States Air Force
Charlie Korsmo 2000, actor (movies include Hook and Dick Tracy)
Raymond Hood 1903, architect of the Rockefeller Center
Thomas Gerrity ’63, Dean Emeritus, Wharton School
Benjamin Netanyahu ’75, former prime minister of Israel
Lois Lilly Howe 1890, second woman in the U.S. to found an architecture firm
Amar Bose ’51, founder, Bose Corporation
Steve Tucker ’91, two-time member of the U.S. Olympic Rowing Team
Helen Greiner ’89, president and co-founder, iRobot
Carlos Prieto ’58, noted cellist
Robert Metcalfe ’68, inventor of Ethernet and founder, 3COM
John Deutch ’61, former director of the CIA
Shirley Jackson ’68, president, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Steve Kirsch ’80, founder, Infoseek
Larry Bacow ’72, president, Tufts University
Jason Szuminski 2000, major league pitcher
Raymond Stata ’57, co-founder, Analog Devices
Linda Muri ’85, three-time world champion rower