Student Body President Tyler Vogel and Assistant Professor of Science Education Dr. Michael Bechtel received funding to build bat houses in Peru over Winter Break to help prevent the spread of malaria.
“My freshman IS class was Social Entrepreneurship. Some upperclassmen students wanted to start a Hult Prize and needed underclassmen representation. We came up with an idea and submitted it,” Vogel said.
Even though the idea did not get accepted, the group was led to the Clinton Global Initiative Conference, which helps young entrepreneurs and social innovators branch out ideas.
“For our next idea, I thought, ‘What about malaria? What is a sustainable approach to tackling issues related to malaria in developing nations?’ We submitted our bat house idea and got accepted into the Clinton Global Initiative,” Vogel said.
Vogel and his fellow students received funding to attend the conference. In April of 2014, the group participated in four rounds of competitions alongside schools such as Harvard and Oxford.
“The last round was like Shark Tank and we were one of the winners. We became provisional resolution fellows, so then we had this networking community of people that is designed to help you get funding and help you succeed in your venture.”
For the next two years, the group, with the help of Dr. Michael Bechtel, worked toward bringing their bat house idea to Malawi, Africa.
They spent a year and a half calling and emailing, struggling to make contacts.
“The more I got involved with it, the more I realized this could actually be used in third world countries as a way to reduce the malaria cases,” Bechtel said.
Bechtel went to Peru in the summer with students from the University of Minnesota.
From there, Bechtel realized they also have a malaria crisis, which gave him the idea for Vogel to bring his idea to Peru.
“We had some engineering students design a bat house of 5,000 bats with a guano collection for farming,” Bechtel said.
Once there, they will be making the houses themselves, along with a couple other people.
Part of the reason why this project is possible is the support from One Planet and several other organizations.
“My favorite part has been working with Vogel. He has unbelievable amounts of energy. He has these goals and I like how he gets you excited about things,” Bechtel said.
“Like, what did I know about bat houses before we started? And then all of a sudden, we start going through this, and I’m like, ‘This is really cool.'”
Vogel said he is nervous but excited for the implementation of the project.
“You’re always nervous when you go out of your comfort zone. When you know it’s something that can make a difference, it’s hard to give up,” Vogel said.
The two will be in Peru for the duration of winter break.