In February 2018, a group of 12 MSOE students and faculty visited El Ocote in rural Honduras with the goal of learning more about the savings-and-loan cooperative the community had established. This group of students and faculty, known as the Business Brigade, worked with the non-governmental organization Global Brigades. The members of the Business Brigade spent the next week learning more about El Ocote’s savings-and-loan cooperative and provided suggestions for improving its operations. The members of the Business Brigade learned that the people of El Ocote often lacked a clear understanding of financial literacy, or the importance of establishing savings accounts and responsibly managing loans through institutions such as the savings-and-loan cooperative.  

One of the Business Brigade participants, an electrical engineering student named Michael Warder, developed an innovative and simple system for teaching financial literacy that he first demonstrated to the members of the governing board of the savings-loan-cooperative. This system employed colored slips of paper that represented money, crops, loans and debt. The governing board was so impressed with this system that its members asked Warder for the slips of paper so they could teach others in El Ocote about the importance of responsibly saving money and managing loans.  

The members of the Business Brigade exhibited the hallmarks of servant leadership during their time in El Ocote, particularly community building and assisting the people of El Ocote with developing additional financial resources for their under-resourced community. Warder then demonstrated other aspects of what is known as the MSOE Mindset. He immediately understood that this method of teaching financial literacy would be more effective if it could be turned into a computer application that incorporated all the rules of the system he had developed. This computer application would allow anyone to teach financial literacy to others in a more robust and engaging manner. Warder began a collaboration with another MSOE student studying software engineering, Tyler Gottlieb, and together they set out to create an easy-to-use computer application that teaches the lessons of financial literacy.  

Warder and Gottlieb have dedicated themselves to developing this computer application and are currently preparing for its first phase of deployment and testing. In addition to the MSOE Business Brigade, which will use this computer application during its next sojourn to Honduras, Global Brigades has agreed to field test the computer application. If all goes according to plan, Global Brigades will make this computer application available to all of its Business Brigades that work throughout Central America. Warder and Gottlieb demonstrated the current version of their computer application during a poster presentation at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Global Humanitarian Technology Conference in San Jose, California in October 2018. They have continued to investigate the best technical methods by which Warder’s system of teaching financial literacy can be integrated into a working computer application.  

In addition to servant leadership, the efforts of Warder, Gottlieb and the other members of the MSOE Business Brigade powerfully illustrate the elements that constitute the MSOE Mindset. These include qualities such as exhibiting an entrepreneurial spirit and curiosity, building connections and collaborating across disciplinary boundaries, engaging members of the MSOE community, developing resources for under-resourced communities, and creating value. Moreover, this is only one story among many that demonstrate the MSOE Mindset, a way of thinking and a manner of working that is manifest among both students and faculty at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.