South Dallas Soul Rep Theater

Left to right: Dr. Eva Csaky, Executive Director of HI, Soul Rep’s Guinea Bennett and Tonya Hollaway, Kyle Baker undergrad student designer, Dr. Jessie Zarazaga, HI Fellow and project advisor, and Corrie Harris, Assistant Director, Hunt Institute and GDL portfolio manager.

“The biggest dream is to have this as a stake in the ground in South Dallas and always be available to the community,” Soul Rep Co-Founder Guinea Bennett-Price said.

In the Spring of 2019, the Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity’s Global Development Lap (GDL) began a project for Soul Rep Theatre Company. The deliverable was a beautifully bound brochure to help communicate the vision and designs for renovations of a South Dallas building. The proposed building will serve as a community arts center, complete with a multi-use performance space, practice area, and communal gathering space. The project focuses on key areas like resilient infrastructure, the practice of employing human-centered design principles to engage communities, and fostering inclusive economic development which provides an opportunity for small businesses to function out of the area and reinvest into the local economy.

Soul Rep Theatre Company was founded in 1996 to provide opportunities for actors, writers, and directors to develop and share their talent with the Dallas arts community. The company, once run solely by volunteers, is now a professional theater company with a subscription-based season. According to its founders, their mission is to provide quality transformative Black theater that enlightens the imagination, the spirit, and the soul. The theatre also seeks to shift the paradigm of how the Black experience is valued by the world.

With renovation designs provided by this project, Soul Rep hopes to use the multi-purpose space to engage the community and foster collaboration in South Dallas. To help realize this goal, the renovation plans include a front porch restoration which to be used as an open space for neighbors and the Soul Rep community to connect. Soul Rep hopes that the front porch, and Soul Rep Arts Center as a whole, will revitalize Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, a street and area that has been long forgotten. The company envisions the space to be a unique and innovative “home” to curate, celebrate and collaborate as a community. “The biggest dream is to have this as a stake in the ground in South Dallas and always be available to the community,” Soul Rep Co-Founder Guinea Bennett-Price said.

The Soul Rep team hopes that the Arts Center will lift up not only the community but also the presence of Black Art in Dallas itself. Citing the lack of Black Art in the Arts District, Bennett-Price said she hopes that this center will reignite the Black Theatre Movement. “Grassroots is our identity,” Bennett-Price explained. “We want to grow beyond and we want to be the tree instead of the grass and the roots.”

Article was written by Jaclyn Soria, undergraduate Journalist

GDL team:

Dr. Jessie Zarazaga, Hunt Institute Fellow and project advisor

Kyle Baker, undergraduate research analyst and designer

Katherine Linares, grad Project Manager

Corrie Harris, Global Development Lab Portfolio Manager

T3 Series with Srikanth Mangalam

The Internet of Things is an elusive, vague, and “futuristic” term; it’s a term that many, even prominent technical developers, have trouble understanding.

Fortunately for all of us, this is what Srikanth Mangalam, an internationally recognized expert in public policy and sustainable development, sought to demystify at his talk for the Hunt Institute’s T3 Series in January. He opened by defining the Internet of Things, or IoTs for short, according to a report he co-authored for the World Bank in which he said, “IoTs refers to a system of connected devices or sensors that gather data, connect with the Internet or local networks, and generate analytics.” He then showed a video describing the methodology behind Amazon Go, a “smart” grocery store where no check-out clerks or cashiers are needed because the carts and baskets automatically detect what is inside them and charge customers accordingly. Mangalam used this fairly simple example to emphasize that IoTs are already prevalent around us in our phones, cars, and public infrastructure.

Mangalam further discussed how IoTs can enhance our existing technological capabilities by improving the speed of data collection and, therefore, response time. Notably, he cited the example of the “Damp Busters” pilot project which designed and developed a frog-shaped sensor to detect moisture and temperature inside buildings. This innovation had important implications for low cost housing options, making them healthier, safer, and in the long run, more affordable. This project is one of many that illustrates the benefit potential of IoTs.

Mangalam then transitioned to speaking on broader implementations of IoTs and brought up an example from the United Kingdom as a blue-print for what successful and widespread IoT adoption should look like. Bristol University and the Bristol City Council have teamed up to form “Bristol’s Data Dome” – an initiative that connects various agencies to develop and pilot IoT projects targeted to meet specific goals. The key takeaway from this example was transparency. In this Bristol initiative, local/national government, companies, NGOs, and private citizens were all involved and connected by free and open access to the data. Because of this, project plans could include a broad range of perspectives and inputs and were able to more acutely address local needs. Additionally, Bristol’s open IoT network allows for experiments to be deployed on a city-wide scale and tweaked, if necessary, in real time. Mangalam noted that this aspect of the “Data Dome” has become critical for Bristol lawmakers. Now, potential policy changes can be tested on the ground before being set in stone.

Bristol’s Data Dome
Bristol’s Data Dome

There is still much to be discovered about IoTs. One thing Mangalam is sure of, however, is the importance of governments in catalyzing IoT research, innovation, and successful implementation. He referenced a report that he co-authored for the World Bank which outlines a few pillars that, if upheld, could maximize the potential of IoTs. The first pillar deals with leadership measures and explains that governments must proactively develop both regulations and standards concerning IoT. Next, the report discusses IoT “strategy” which should involve sandboxes to test experiments, public-private partnerships, local businesses, and more. Essentially, increased collaboration on IoT projects for social/economic good will likely result in more success. Finally, the third pillar is engagement. Governments seeking to advance IoT deployments should educate and build awareness amongst all stakeholders affected by or integral to a project’s success.

Meet Evie at EarthX 2018

You’ve read her story. You’ve seen the progress. Now, are you ready to meet Evie?

Join us for EarthX 2018 to see Evie in action! In addition to showing off our mobile greenhouse, we’re debuting Evie: Phase II.

Evie: Phase II focuses on the optimization of growing. Students at the Hunt Institute have spent this past year researching heating, cooling and irrigation systems for Evie. After months of research, Alejandro Dominguez Garcia and Alec Maulding started development on the 3Dponics system.

3Dponics stems from the science of aeroponics, a precise irrigation method that allows plants to grow without soil. This is important for Evie’s bigger mission: to make growing fresh produce accessible to everyone. Finding enough nutrient-rich soil to grow fruits and vegetables in is a challenge in an urban environment. Aeroponic technology makes it possible to grow where you go.

The “3D” part of 3Dponics refers to 3D printing. Several of the parts for Evie’s irrigation system are printed using Fused Depositions Modeling 3D Printers, which brings down the cost of the system significantly.

Evie is possible because of the interdisciplinary team of students at the Hunt Institute. Adrienn Santa, a mechanical engineering student, led the research on heating and cooling Evie. Alissa Llort led students from the MADI program, advertising, computer science, journalism, film and other disciplines in promoting Evie. The Hunt Institute specializes in bringing together SMU students from all disciplines to achieve innovative research with practical application.

EarthX will be held at the State Fair of Texas from April 20-22. It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Bring your family for fun activities, including a scavenger hunt and tree climbing!

For more information about EarthX, please click here.


Story Contributors

Written by: Anna Grace Carey

Edited by: Maggie Inhofe

Photos by: Alissa Llort

Break Bread, Break Borders

Break Bread, Break Borders (BBBB) is a catering company with a twist. BBBB hires women who came to Dallas as refugees and equips them with the tools to thrive in a new country. Not only does BBBB help build a necessary sense of community among women who have lost nearly everything in their home countries, but BBBB also facilitates a discussion about immigration in the United States.

“A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.” -United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

BBBB founder Jin-Ya’s story can be explained like a braid. Different aspects of her life were prominent at different points. These different threads twisted together in 2016 to form BBBB. The five threads that makeup Jin-Ya’s story are: immigration, food, art, loss, and action.

Thread one: immigration

As a child, Jin-Ya moved from Taipai, Taiwan to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her parents. She had to leave family, friends, and familiarity to follow her parents in pursuit of better opportunities in America.

“I was the kid they started ESL for,” Jin-Ya said with a laugh.

For most people, the phrase “middle school” is unsettling enough. Now imagine navigating the awkward middle school years in a foreign country without an understanding of the language.

While finding her new identity as an American, Jin-Ya’s parents encouraged her to try everything. She had loved art from the age of three, but coming to America made her realize that art was a universal language.

Thread two: art

Jin-Ya explained that in a new country she needed to find her own voice. She witnessed her mom find her voice through cooking. Jin-Ya found that sense of strength and confidence in art. After high school, she pursued an interdisciplinary degree from the University of Texas at Dallas, where she found her passion for photography. After college, Jin-Ya worked for different fashion companies, including Neiman Marcus and JCPenney, as an art director. Today, Jin-Ya works as a Packaging Manager for Fossil.

Jin-Ya has been able to blend her love of photography with her passion for activism. In addition to teaching art classes to people of all ages, she originated the idea of “Rock Your Heart Out,” the Human Rights Initiative’s annual fundraiser.

Thread three: food

Jin-Ya’s aunt and uncle owned a restaurant chain. Her parents worked at the restaurant after they moved to America and eventually purchased their own franchise in Dallas.

Jin-Ya’s parents would always hire immigrants and refugees. At the restaurant, people from all over the world would learn English, how to cook, achieve financial independence, adjust to a new culture, and gain a sense of community. For Jin-Ya and her family, food was never just something to eat. It was a chance to build relationships by finding common ground over a shared meal.

Thread four: loss

Two years ago, Jin-Ya’s mother passed away. As Jin-Ya was working through her grief, she looked back on her mother’s life and saw a woman who believed in kindness. She was a woman who hired displaced people, taught them how to work in the food industry, and sent them on to bigger and better jobs.

Jin-Ya harnessed her grief and turned it into action. That action was BBBB: a vehicle for taking the skills individuals already have and using those skills to facilitate the transition to the American job market and culture. In short, it’s access to success.

Thread five: action

“You’re about to take part in a social justice initiative,” Jin-Ya proclaimed to a group of Teach For America team members who had hired BBBB to cater their lunch.

The social justice initiative was a BBBB lunch. Jin-Ya noted that the food tastes better when you understand the story behind it.

While everyone munched away on Syrian foods, two women stood up to share their stories. Maryam One and Mariam Two. With a smile, Jin-Ya explained that they were so-called because of the order that she met them. Mariam Two stepped forward to share her story with her limited English vocabulary.

In Syria, Mariam Two taught Arabic and lived with her husband and four children. As instability swept over Syria, Mariam knew she had to leave. She walked across the desert with her four children and eventually made it to Jordan. Mariam Two explained that in Jordan, “I want to work, but don’t find it.”

Finally, Mariam Two had the opportunity to come to America. She had to leave her eldest two daughters behind in Jordan because the girls had gotten married. Mariam and her youngest two children took the plunge and crossed the ocean to find their new home in Dallas.

“Everyone smiles here,” Mariam Two observed. “Everyone is so free.”

BBBB aims to empower women both socially and economically. It is a chance to build a community. It is a chance to invest in others. It is a chance to break bread and break borders.

The Hunt Institute is proud to spotlight BBBB, a Hunt Institute Social Entrepreneur, that’s making waves in the DFW area. For more information about BBBB please click here or, email to learn how to get involved.

Story Contributors

Written by: Anna Grace Carey

Edited by: Maggie Inhofe

Images courtesy of Anna Grace Carey and Jin-Ya Huang.

Therapy Dogs Come To the Hunt Institute

A tsunami of tranquility passed over the Hunt Institute during the therapy dog visit on Wednesday. Four dogs and their handlers from Heart of Texas Therapy Dogs spent the afternoon bringing a much-needed calm to SMU students taking midterms.

In one corner, a former racing greyhound with a pink leash enjoyed meeting students in one of her first official visits as a therapy dog. By one couch, a seven-year-old sheltie eagerly showed off her ability to sit, shake and roll over. Her handler had made her a crochet collar decorated with colorful Easter eggs to celebrate spring. Close to the door, an old red golden retriever rested on his side and listened to his handler chat with college students.

SMU students filtered in and out of the HI’s doors and stayed anywhere from five minutes to two hours. Almost every interaction began the same way: an apprehensive student would sit down next to a dog and the handler would introduce him. Within seconds, the uncertainty would melt into conversation. Everyone left feeling a little less stressed and more prepared to take on midterms.






Story Contributors

Written by: Anna Grace Carey

Edited by: Maggie Inhofe

Photographer: Cullen Blanchfield

Midsemester Update

As Spring Break comes to an end and the second half of the semester begins to wind up, the Hunt Institute is proud to highlight some of our student’s accomplishments.

Alejandro Dominguez Garcia

This semester Alejandro has been working on Evie Phase II. He has recently committed to a summer internship internship in Florida. He will be working as an integrated supply chain intern with NextEra Energy.

Alissa Llort

In March, Alissa was awarded the Irene Runnels-Paula McStay College Scholarship from the Dallas Area Alliance for Women in Media Foundation. Alissa is looking forward to competing in the National Student Adverting Competition in Corpus Christi next month. For this competition, groups of students put forward different marketing strategies for a major company. Alissa has also been preparing for the Women Ambassadors Forum that will take place on SMU’s campus in June.

Anna Grace Carey

This semester, Anna Grace has been inducted into the Hyer Honor Society and named a Hatton Sumners Scholar. More recently, she spent part of her spring break presenting fashion and copyright research at the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium. The paper that she co-wrote was named Top Paper in the Law & Policy division.

Cullen Blanchfield

Cullen is currently making videos for The Standard and the Hunt Institute. This summer, he plans to work on the feature film set at SMU. To view some of Cullen’s work, click here.

DeAngelo Garner 

DeAngelo has been accepted into SMU’s MSPA program for business analytics. Next year, he will begin pursuing his advanced degree in the Cox School of Business. DeAngelo has been nominated for SMU’s Outstanding Senior Man award, an honor reserved for ten graduating seniors.

Kelsey Shipman

This semester, Kelsey was inducted into four honor societies: Phi Beta Kappa, Mortar Board Honor Society, Hyer Honor Society and Omicron Delta Epsilon. Over spring break, Kelsey traveled to Israel with the Human Rights Program. She intends to spend this summer interning in Washington, D.C., through the Vaughn Fellowship at the Tower Center.

Maggie Inhofe

Maggie is preparing to graduate from SMU with a Master’s Degree in Design and Innovation. This semester she is finishing up her final projects, working on various side projects, and enjoying her remaining months at SMU.


Story Contributors

Written by: Anna Grace Carey

Edited by: Maggie Inhofe

Why should we start regenerating and stop reprimanding?

Corrie A Harris, MA

Regenerate. The word is derived from the Latin word “generare,” to create, and the prefix “re,“ meaning again. According to Merrium-Webster, this word means to restore, to form again, and “to change radically and for the better.”

Regenerate. This is the word that triggered a moment of clarity and enlightenment for Corrie Harris, Program Manager of the Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity, during the Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit in early February. Here, members of colleges and universities from across the country came together for a productive discussion of what it means to create a sustainable economy.

Harris spoke on a panel with representatives from Institutes and Centers around the United States. Members of the panel discussed how different university-affiliated organizations are working across sectors to strengthen their local economies.

“You do not have to have the word sustainability in your title to incorporate resilient and sustainable principles into your work and life,” Harris said. “It really boils down to responsible management of resources.”

Harris’ personal highlight from the conference? Hearing Paul Hawken, renowned author of Drawdown, environmentalist and activist, give a keynote address about regenerative development. Regenerative development focuses on reviving, recreating and rethinking our existing practices.

In his address, Hawken recalled a conversation he had with a colleague about the inadequacy of recent environmental efforts.

“We failed,” the colleague said. “It’s game over.”

“I disagree,” Hawken replied. “It’s game on.”

Hawken argues that it’s time to take a step back and listen. For example, we should stop insisting that people ride bicycles to work. Bicycles aren’t always practical. Weather, extra passengers and cargo all complicate the simple “just bike instead” mandate. It is time to think though what people need: safe, reliable and affordable transportation. It is time for innovators to design smarter cars that have a benign effect on the environment. Companies like Tesla have proven that efficient cars can be a practical solution to environmental problems.

“It was the term I was looking for all along,” Harris said in reference to her work in Nicaragua.

Regenerative development is the new guiding concept for Harris as she moves forward with her research in development with the Hunt Institute.


Story Contributors

Written by: Anna Grace Carey

Edited by: Maggie Inhofe

The Creative Economy Matters

Silvia Rivera is the definition of a world changer. Since joining the Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity as a student analyst, Rivera has conducted research on artisan entrepreneurship and inclusive economic development. Rivera recently returned from Washington, D.C. after participating in “The Creative Economy Matters,” a conference hosted by the Artisan Alliance.

For this conference, the Artisan Alliance brought individuals from around the world together to talk about the various challenges and opportunities of investing in and creating artisan businesses. For Rivera, this was the first time that her personal ties to artisan products and academic research converged.

Throughout her childhood, Rivera visited artisan markets with her mother frequently. Even now, every time Rivera goes abroad, she makes an effort to visit small markets. These experiences have led to Rivera’s personal museum of handmade goods and tangible memories.

In college, Rivera started research at the Hunt Institute on artisanal businesses. Artisinal activity is the second largest source of income for the global poor, calls upon existing skills, makes use of available raw materials, and can help preserve cultural traditions. Rivera’s research asks, “What makes artisanal businesses successful? What makes their work impactful?” Rivera often analyzes these questions under the inclusive economy framework, a model created by Dr. Eva Csaky, director of the Hunt Institute.

“I’ll never forget it,” Rivera said when discussing the conference. “Washington, D.C. is such an energizing city.” Rivera went on to talk about her favorite speaker at the conference, DolmaKyap.

DolmaKyap, an artisan entrepreneur, shared his story of creating Chamtsee, a small handicraft workshop in Tibet. After leaving his home in search of the meaning of life, DolmaKyap noticed that people were interested in Tibet and the Tibetan way of life. He had always known that there were exceptional goods and products, like textiles and cheeses, representative of nomadic Tibetan culture. After leaving Tibet, he learned that there was demand for those goods in other parts of the world. This was the critical moment: there was an amazing good and a need in the world, what could DolmaKyap do about it? The result was Chamtsee. DolmaKyap proves that successful artisan products can generate income and represent a person’s culture.

Ideally, the impact of investing in artisanal businesses benefits everyone. By purchasing a handmade good, consumers are able to empower someone in a tangible and direct way. Artisans receive support and, in most cases, a fair wage. Consumers receive a unique product, a conversation piece, and something that is completely their own.

Do you want to start supporting artisan businesses today? The Artisan Alliance’s list of member organizations is a great place to start. Some of the members, like GAIA for Women and The Citizenry, are based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Rivera acknowledges the challenges of ethical buying in general and offered this piece of advice: “A good rule of thumb I use is to just be as curious and inquisitive as possible about what you’re buying and where it came from, and to have fun with that process.”

A cursory glance at Rivera’s resume is enough to turn heads. She is a triple major in business, international studies and Spanish. She is a President’s Scholar, BBA Scholar and McLane Scholar. She has researched artisan entrepreneurship as a student analyst at the Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity. It’s no surprise that Bain & Company has offered her a job following her graduation in May.

According to their website, the Artisan Alliance is a network that “works to unlock the economic value in the artisan sector.” They do this through programs with innovative financing, member networking, business coaching and other events. The Artisan Alliance brings business owners, policymakers and consumers together to enact change that no business could achieve alone.

Story Contributors

Written by: Anna Grace Carey

Edited by: Maggie Inhofe

Blockchain: the Great Democratizer and Equalizer

Xiaochen Zhang, founder of FinTech4Good Hunt Institute Seminar Series SMU LYLE
Xiaochen Zhang speaking at the 2018 Spring Seminar on Blockchain at the Hunt Institute SMU/Lyle

“I feel lucky to live in this era where blockchain is emerging,” Xiaochen Zhang, founder of FinTech4Good and keynote speaker for the February 2018 Hunt Institute Seminar Series, said in an interview following his keynote address.

He went on to compare the emergence of blockchain to the emergence of the Internet. There is a new world of possible applications for this technology. His excitement was contagious. The intersection of computer science and inclusive economics is here.

At just ten years old, blockchain is a relatively new way to think about digital records. With new technology comes the ability to empowering others. This semester, the Hunt Institute invited Zhang and Anna Carroll, a graduate student in the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, to discuss blockchain and its social implications at the Seminar Series. Chris Kelley, a Senior Fellow in the Hunt Institute, moderated the Q&A session.

Following a welcome speech by Dr. Eva Csaky, director of the Hunt Institute, Carroll explained the use and development of blockchain. Simply put, blockchain is a system of accountability. This system is currently used for projects like cryptocurrency, but has the potential to support social and environmental initiatives.

In his keynote address, Zhang invited members of the audience to picture a world with honest and accurate information at their fingertips. He illustrated this idea with the example of grocery shopping.

“You go to the store and you pick something that says ‘organic,’” Zhang said. “But what makes it organic?”

Xiaochen Zhang, founder of FinTech4Good Hunt Institute Seminar Series SMU LYLE
Audience consisted of industry professionals, faculty, staff, and students all joining the conversation about Blockchain.

Zhang went on to explain that, with blockchain, a producer could attach a QR code to a food label. By scanning the QR code, anyone could have access to the blockchain tracking the supply chain. You could know where the fruit was grown, who tended to it, and how it was shipped to the grocery store. With a blockchain tracking this information, there would be a guarantee of authenticity.

“I’m looking for the next unicorn that can come from this,” Zhang said in an interview after the seminar. Zhang said the best part of his job is the process of “incubating and identifying” the new ideas that have resulted from the development of blockchain. The “unicorn” Zhang is looking for is an idea that can create tangible social impact. His business is blockchain for good, after all.

It is easy to appreciate Zhang’s enthusiasm for blockchain and the possibilities that accompany it.  Socially, blockchain can function as a digital ID for people who would have never been able to participate in the international market before. As a financial tool, blockchain has the power to drastically reduce cross-boarder payments. Between currency conversion and bank fees, most people don’t have the option of doing international business. Blockchain has enabled currencies that exist independently of government, enabling peer-to-peer rather than government-to-government business relationships.

Existing applications of blockchain range from tackling climate change, to enabling food traceability, to empowering small entrepreneurs and farmers, to enforcing green finance regulations. Zhang also alluded to blockchain’s potential to enable automatic payment, reduce costs, increase security, and improve analysis. These blockchain-based, high-impact applications can foster inclusive and sustainable economic development.

“It was very impactful to see the relevance of blockchain,” Alejandro Dominguez Garcia, a student analyst at the Hunt Institute, said.  “It can directly increase the safety of transactions and it can help several aspects of a business.”

For more information about Zhang’s work, please click here.

For more information about the inclusive economy, please click here.


Xiaochen Zhang, founder of FinTech4Good Hunt Institute Seminar Series SMU LYLE
Xiaochen Zhang, founder of FinTech4Good

Xiaochen Zhang is the President of FinTech4Good and the Blockchain Frontier Group. He leads the design and implementation of FinTech4Goods’s strategy, which aims to introduce high-impact fintech and blockchain solutions to frontier markets through incubation, acceleration, and investment.

Dr. Zhang serves on the Board of Directors of the Crowdfunding Professional Association, the UN ESCAP Digital Economy Task Force, and he is co-chair of Insurance Blockchain Lab, Smart City Blockchain Lab, and Blockchain4SDGs Lab. He is a Senior Advisor to the Inter-American Development Bank and the China Social Entrepreneurs Foundation, and serves on the advisory boards of several innovative start-ups. He brings more than 16 years of thought leadership and global experience with developing and scaling innovative social and environmental solutions in North America, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

Prior to joining FinTech4Good, Xiaochen advised government agencies and multinational organizations on innovation, emerging technologies, and investment in positions at the World Bank, the United Nations, and other international partnership platforms. He has also taught innovation and venture building at leading business schools and served as mentors for many innovative businesses. Zhang has studied at Virginia Tech, and has earned Master’s Degrees from Leipzig University, University of Wroclaw, and the Communication University of China.


Anna Carroll is a graduate student in security engineering at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering and is a researcher on Dr. Fred Chang’s team at the Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security where her research focuses on blockchain. Carroll recently received her bachelor’s degree from SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering in computer science.

Anna Carroll graduate student speaks before Xiaochen Zhang, founder of FinTech4Good Hunt Institute Seminar Series SMU LYLE
Anna layed a foundation for what Blockchain is in preparation for Xiaochen Zhang’s talk.

Carroll was inspired to study cyber security because she believes that it is time for security companies to stop playing the catch up game. More often than not, a security breach is announced and engineers are left scrambling to create a patch and mitigate the damage. Carroll believes in developing software with existing cyber security and keeping up with the pace of technological advances. Anticipating the need for cyber security means that breaches can be prevented instead of patched.

After graduation, Carroll plans to continue cyber security research.




Story Contributors

Written by: Anna Grace Carey

Edited by: Maggie Inhofe

Photographer: Alissa Llort



The Story of Evie, the Mobile Greenhouse

On March 3, 2017 a rickety Shasta trailer with rotting walls rolled onto SMU’s campus. The doors were duct taped shut to hold it together. The once white siding had turned yellow after years of weathering. The two-toned orange striping on the side gave away the trailer’s mid-1980s birthday.

In tiny white lettering painted over an orange stripe, the Shasta greeted the Hunt Institute team with the message, “Friendship 16.”

The team called in a professional, The Trailer Guy, to redo the trailer. Alejandro Dominguez Garcia, a student analyst at the Hunt Institute, said that he was glad the little Shasta was in such bad shape. “It allowed us to start from scratch and completely make it our own.”

After the trailer was fixed up, it was time for the real work to begin.

Research: Phase I, or Why did the Hunt Institute buy an old trailer in the first place?

The Hunt Institute was founded to combat the effects of poverty through the intersection of innovative research and practical application. Around the world, people are confronted with a lack of clean and plentiful water, an absence of nutrient rich soil, problems associated with extreme climates, and inadequate space. For many, this translates to food insecurity. Finding a solution that combats these constraints on agriculture in urban areas became a top priority for the Hunt Institute.

This problem is not exclusive to places on the other side of the world. In fact, food insecurity is all around us. Half of South Dallas is considered a food desert, according to a 2011 study by the US Department of Agriculture. A food desert is an area that lacks access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of the South Dallas area relies on convenience stores and fast food restaurants for meals because large, well-stocked grocery stores are not readily accessible by public transportation.

“Food insecurity is a crippling experience that families face every day,” said Dr. Eva Csaky, Director of the Hunt Institute. “Even in American cities, some communities have limited or no access to healthy food options, which can lead to health and social consequences down the line.”

The need for mobile, low-cost, automated agriculture was apparent. The solution: a mobile greenhouse named Evie.

Why mobile? Most people around the world do not own their own homes. When people move, for whatever reason, they should not have to leave their food source behind. Why low cost? Imagine that people around the world, regardless of their economic limitations, had the option to invest in a mobile greenhouse. People could supplement their diets with fresh fruits and vegetables, or supplement their income by selling produce. Why automated? Agriculture is an investment that requires time and specific training. Not everyone has the technical ability to monitor and adjust growing conditions. An automated system sets everyone up for success, regardless of background knowledge.

So, why did the Hunt Institute buy an old trailer in the first place? Sustainability. The old Shasta trailer could be retrofitted to serve as the prototype of the mobile greenhouse. When something old has the potential to be repurposed, there is no need to build something new. The Hunt Institute was able to save precious resources through this major recycling effort. On a global scale, people are more likely to have access to an old trailer than a new building. With a lot of elbow grease, any trailer can become an optimized growing space.

The idea of a “Greenhouse for Good,” a mobile, low-cost, automated agricultural space, guided the Hunt Institute team as they began the initial research.

What’s in a Name?

As different ideas for turning an old trailer into a mobile greenhouse floated around the Hunt Institute, one major problem remained. What should the project title be? Initially, people tried to name the project something related to SMU, but names like Peruna and Pony Up didn’t make the cut. Finally, someone suggested Evie. And it stuck. Alissa Llort, part of the Hunt Institute’s External Affairs team, shared that Evie was derived from the name Eve. The name Eve is associated with life and beginnings and, as Llort added, “greenhouses go along with that message.”

The motto for the Evie campaign was also important for conveying the meaning behind the mobile greenhouse. The team settled on, “Plant where you are, grow where you go.”


On April 20, 2017, the Hunt Institute was ready to unveil Evie at Earth Day Texas. Kids, parents and Big Tex took turns admiring the red and white trailer. Even though Evie wasn’t named after SMU, there was a large mustang painted on the back. The red bottom half of the trailer and white roof were interrupted by a blue stripe in the middle. This trailer was unmistakably the product of Southern Methodist University’s modern, interdisciplinary, world-changing students.

Throughout the day, kids were able to plant seeds and learn about agriculture. Evie: Phase I was about creating the mobile greenhouse. Once the greenhouse was created, Evie could take some time to focus on education.

While reflecting on unveiling Evie, team lead Adrienn Santa said, “It is important to educate people, encourage them to grow their own vegetables and fruits, and to eat healthy food every day.”

Research: Phase II

In elementary school, most kids learn that living things need food, water and shelter to survive. For plants, that translates to soil, water and sunlight. A mobile greenhouse presents some serious problems when it comes to meeting those needs. Shasta trailers were not designed to facilitate irrigation, allow for direct sunlight, and certainly don’t come fully stocked with nutrient-rich soil. Student Fellows at the Hunt Institute had to research innovative solutions to compensate for the resources taken away by the ease of mobility.

Evie: Phase II is focused on the optimization of growing. How can Evie consistently and reliably use water? How will Evie manage heat waves and cold snaps? SMU students and Hunt Institute Fellows have been busy trying to answer those questions.

3Dponics is an open-source initiative that combines aeroponics and 3D printing. Aeroponics uses precise irrigation in a way that allows plants to grow without soil. This makes it possible for plants to grow in areas without good soil due to environmental conditions, urbanization or natural disasters. 3D printing using the Fused Depositions Modeling 3D Printers helps reduce the cost of complex aeroponic systems, making gardening more accessible to disadvantaged communities. Alejandro Dominguez Garcia and Alec Maulding are working on research and development for this portion of Evie: Phase II.

Heating and cooling was a major concern when developing Evie: Phase I and researching Evie: Phase II. Adrienn Santa analyzed solar power, heat absorption, and the refrigeration cycle of the mobile greenhouse. The goal of this research was to find a sustainable solution for cooling small greenhouses.






Evie Today

Mark your calendars for April 20, 2018. Evie will be back on exhibit at EarthX 2018 and you can have the first look at the new improvements to the solutions lab. Evie still has teaching to do and lives to touch. Phase II of research and development is underway, but isn’t done yet. With Evie Phases II and III, we hope to get even closer to the bigger dream of combating the effects of poverty through innovation and compassion. We invite you to become a part of Evie’s story. Please click here to get involved.



Story Contributors

Written by: Anna Grace Carey

Edited by: Maggie Inhofe

Photos by: Alissa Llort, Laura O. Graham and Corrie Harris

Graphic designs by: Alissa Llort

To read more about the Hunt Institute’s work to develop future-focused solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems, please click here. For the latest news on the Hunt Institute, follow our social media accounts on LinkedInFacebookand Instagram. We invite you to listen to our Podcast called Sages & Seekers. If you are considering engaging with the institute, you can donate, or sign-up for our newsletter by emailing