Photo by Becca Waterloo

Provided by Becca Waterloo

What sets the Illinois Institute of Technology apart from most universities in the world is their IPRO program: Interprofessional Projects, which give students the opportunity to work in an academic environment with others from various disciplines on real world projects sponsored by non-profit or for-profit companies. What differentiates the IPRO 333 team apart from other projects is their story, desire, and passion to build relationships through an element Americans thoughtlessly run on everyday – coffee.

East African coffee farmers are looking for ways to reach export markets; Crop to Cup Coffee Company (C2C) is looking to create relationships between the coffee farmer and consumer to let you know where your coffee is coming from. Their ultimate goal is 100% transparency while avoiding the middle men and putting the well deserved cash into the pockets of coffee farmers. In order to make this happen, C2C approached IPRO with an opportunity for students to design and build a coffee storage facility hut (banda) for coffee farmers using local materials in the Gibuzaale village of Uganda.

Fundraising was necessary in order to start gathering whatever money available for their travels to Uganda in December 2010. Not only did they sell the coffee in Brookfield, Northfield, Edgewater and Avondale farmer’s markets, they sold the story to consumers letting them know where their cup of coffee comes from; their slogan turned into “Our Coffee: $2, Our Story: Priceless”.

After two long semesters of work, members of the team headed out to Uganda in December to gather information on the site, have conversations with the farmers regarding their needs for the banda, and seek approval of the IPRO team’s design. Not only did they get all of the necessary information to continue forward, but they shook hands and created friendships with the farmers and locals they told the story of endless times. Traveling abroad not only brought the team closer to their goal, it also bonded the integrity of the teammates. They are now spending their final semester completing the design, creating a feasible construction schedule, preparing a prototype model, and raising funds for materials and travel expenses for a June 2011 excursion to build the banda on site.

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Evan O'Brien

Evan O'Brien is the content manager of Soon after Evan was born in Chicago, his family moved to Oak Park for the same reason that attracts people to the "World's Largest Village" today: the...