Energy Workshop, Design Thinking

In support of its human factors work on the DOE-India microgrid pilot feasibility study, MSL convened a cross-sector workshop of a dozen experts drawn from a broad range of  relevant disciplines and on-the-ground experience. The highly successful workshop was co-facilitated and hosted by the Santa Fe Art Institute (an affiliate of MSL partner institution the Santa Fe Innovation Park) and its director Sanjit Sethi, an expert in “design thinking” and its application to many problem-solving settings. It featured a user-centered design approach to the Human, Social, and Cultural (“HSC”) factors bearing on successful technology and energy projects in rural community settings. Joining Sanjit in leading the session were MSL General Manager David Breecker, and Christian Casillas, who recently completed his Ph.D. at the Energy and Resources Group of the University of California, Berkeley. Christian did his field work in community participatory energy planning in Nicaragua, and also has practical experience in India.

The exceptionally varied and talented workshop participants were as follows:

Dale Alverson – Professor Emeritus on faculty at the University of New Mexico. Since 1995, he has been the Medical Director of the Center for Telehealth and Cybermedicine Research at UNM involved in the planning, implementation, research and evaluation of Telemedicine systems for New Mexico. He is Chairman of the Board of the New Mexico Telehealth Alliance broadly representative of stakeholders and advocates for telehealth in New Mexico. He is also a member of the Four Corners Telehealth Collaborative that addresses interstate issues related to telehealth. He is Past President of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) and has also been involved in several international collaborative telehealth initiatives.

Jamie Blosser, Director of Atkin Olshin Schade Architects’ Santa Fe office, specializes in tribal advocacy and sustainable community development projects. She leads many of the projects in the southwest region, including the Owe’neh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. Jamie received her Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and is the recipient of the Frederick P. Rose Architectural Fellowship. She recently founded the Sustainable Native Communities Collaborative, a new initiative of Enterprise Community Partners, which received a National Endowment of the Arts grant to conduct research with tribal leaders to develop best practices for sustainable development in Native American communities in the Southwest.

David Breecker, HSC project director, is founder and President of the Santa Fe Innovation Park, and founder and General Manager of the Microgrid Systems Laboratory. In both capacities, he seeks to integrate multiple methods of problem solving and cross-sector collaboration to create new approaches to complex systemic challenges. MSL aims to distinguish itself by applying human factors, including a user-centered design process, to microgrid design and development, along with technical, regulatory, policy, and financial factors. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in Media Communications from New College, and has been a musician, printer, teacher, and film executive.

Christian Casillas’s work focuses on developing learning and infrastructure systems that empower individuals and communities. He has collaborated with villagers in Nicaragua to develop more efficient diesel microgrids, partnered on the design, construction, and installation of hybrid wind and photovoltaic (PV) systems in isolated Nicaraguan communities, supported the training and installation of PV systems on health clinics in Liberia, and helped assess the viability of integrating renewable energy into Colombia’s remote civil aviation sites. Christian served in the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Namibia, and has designed and run project-based learning programs in the U.S. and India, in which youth built and installed wind turbines, biogas digesters, and PV lighting systems. Christian has degrees in environmental engineering, applied mathematics, and a PhD in energy and resources.

Brian Combs is the sustainability coordinator at Santa Fe Community College, where he is also an instructor for advance photovoltaic systems, project manager, and planner for utility purchases and water conservation. Brian was the designer and lead installer for system upgrades to the first completely off-grid charter school, near Flagstaff, serving an entirely Native American population. He was responsible for the engineering plans and project management of its upgraded renewable energy system, consisting wind and solar generation. He has also been a science editor for a newspaper and neuroscience researcher.

Eliza Evans has spent the last 15 years at the nexus of R&D, technology transfer and regional innovation. In her role at the IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, she identified and created scalable opportunities in the areas of clean energy, nano and biotechnology, wireless, photovoltaics, and digital convergence. She has also directed a number of studies for community and technical colleges to identify emerging technology opportunities and develop industry-relevant degree and certificate programs.  She has worked primarily in the U.S., India, China, Russia and the Canary Islands, and holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Economic Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her dissertation examined economic and social outcomes of microlending programs for rural women in India and was based on 18 months of fieldwork in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.

Ed Fasula has developed a generalist’s capacity to assemble and focus diverse technologies and a specialist’s abilities with practical and social appropriateness. Ed currently leads UAV/remote sensing development ranging from Alaska tundra fire detection to affordable 3D scanning for permaculture design. Previously, he performed innovative heavy lift and steel erection engineering on jumbo crane lifts. Ed is also an artist blacksmith, mechanical/structural designer, and structural/architectural metal fabricator. His ground-up integrative approach has generated successful innovations in large scale food process systems, solar thermal systems for low income access and industrial use, waste oil burners, a floating geological coring platform system used worldwide today, small and large-scale biomass and gas burner kits, and sustainable construction/energy systems.

Lisa Faithorn is a research anthropologist, organizational consultant and educator. For the last eight years Lisa has worked on applied research projects with NASA. Her current project involves participant observation and user studies with NASA Mission Flight Controllers at Johnson Space Center as part of a team developing new automation technologies for extended NASA missions. In addition to her on-going consulting practice, Lisa co-founded, directed and taught in the graduate program in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, from 1982 through the mid-1990s. She received her BA from Bennington College, her MA from Northwestern University, and her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, all in anthropology. She has visited India four times, and is deeply interested in issues of technology and culture.

Sandy McCardle – The primary threads in Sandra’s background are international, “green”, and “client-based”.  Her degrees in Cultural Adaption and Change, International Nonprofit Management / Intercultural Communication, and International Business Administration form the structure of what she does through Current-C Energy Systems, Inc.  The content is focused around energy efficiency and generation, using the building blocks of people, buildings, and processes – particularly in underserved communities and organizations.  Varied project examples can be found on our website,, and they generally include aspects of community / economic development, culture and tradition, and behavioral change. “Base of the Pyramid” strategies are of particular interest, where they can be appropriately developed (Most recently, in Native American Tribes and in Afghanistan).

Luke Spangenburg  is the founder of New Solutions Energy  (NSE), a Santa Fe company that produces all-weather, closed-loop algal growing systems with applications for food, renewable energy, and neutraceuticals. Luke is also the Director of the Biofuels Center of Excellence and lead algae instructor at the Santa Fe Community College. Luke has worked as a high altitude mountain guide in Peru, and professional cyclist, racing in over 30 countries.

Sanjit SethiBorn in Rochester, New York, Sanjit Sethi received a BFA in 1994 from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, an MFA in 1998 from the University of Georgia, and an MS in advanced visual studies in 2002 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sethi has been an artist in residence at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada; lecturer at MIT, and visiting faculty at the Srishti School of Art Design and Technology. After completing a Fulbright fellowship in Bangalore, India, working on the Building Nomads project, he was director of the MFA program at the Memphis College of Art. From 2008 to 2013 Sanjit was the Director of the Center for Art and Public Life and Barclay Simpson Professor of Community Arts at the California College of the Arts. Currently Sethi is the Director of the Santa Fe Art Institute where he is focused on how creative cultural organizations can be drivers of social change.