SMART 2013: KMUTT-Cornell University WorkshopPosted on February 7, 2013

A sustainable and community-focused facility development and marketing plan has been proposed for a community group producing GABA Rice (germinated brown rice) in Na’ngoi, Sakon Nakon as a result of a collaborative effort between Cornell University and KMUTT students. During the first two weeks of the semester, coinciding with Cornell’s winter break, a team of 8 KMUTT students (representing the Faculties of Architecture and Engineering) and 8 Cornell students worked together to understand and address economic and sustainability issues being faced by the community group, culminating with a wrap-up presentation given at the Bangmod campus by both the Cornell and KMUTT students on January 17, 2013.

This project marks the second collaboration between KMUTT and Cornell University on the Cornell International Institute for Food and Agricultural Development’s SMART (Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Teams) program. Last year, the Biodiversity Economic Development Office hosted 3 SMART projects in Thailand for KMUTT and Cornell students. In order to provide a foundation for a long-term partnership, KMUTT came forward this year to provide project and community relationship development support through its Royal Project Initiatives Office.

The Na’ngoi community group was chosen for this project because of the long-term 111ties between the community and KMUTT. KMUTT has been working with this community since 1978, providing technical expertise and economic support for development projects to improve the living standards and economic opportunities of those living in Na’ngoi. The GABA Rice project was initiated 5 years ago in response to the economic vulnerability of the community’s dependence on a local tomato canning facility. The GABA Rice Project provides an opportunity for economic diversity within the community, but has been constrained by limited market access and lack of a central working area for the group members. The proposal developed by KMUTT and Cornell students will pave the way for both universities to provide real-world projects for students this coming semester and in the following years.

The students’ proposal was aligned with community social and cultural priorities during their 8-day fieldwork trip. Students employed anthropological methods and focused on group studies to ensure their understanding of the community’s needs and priorities. Small teams of Cornell and KMUTT students took advantage of home-stay opportunities to observe and participate in the GABA Rice process. Other student teams conducted in-depth interviews with community members, both affiliated and uninvolved in the GABA Rice Project, and used community mapping techniques to locate proposed facility sites. The final proposal and feedback session was well attended by community members and elders who ended the session with a blessing ceremony for the student teams. There were no dry eyes amongst the community project partners, the students, or the faculty supporting the teams as the team took their leave the next morning.

The KMUTT students who participated in this fieldwork session will have the opportunity to move the proposal forward and continue working with the Cornell students this semester in conjunction with taking General Education 352: Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development. The students will develop a project charter outlining their plan for delivering actionable improvements to the GABA Rice Project. They will receive course credit for their work, as well as the invaluable experience of working in community-service as part of a multi-disciplinary and international