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Telling 'Text Stories' to Curtail Disease


Having knit together the strands of his academic interests, Andy Chen ’16 graduated from Hamilton to study power mechanical engineering and bioengineering for a semester at Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University. Chen is a biotech entrepreneur who majored in biology and minored in linguistics.

While still at Hamilton, and with the support of Levitt Center staff and others in the Hamilton community, Chen and classmate Leonard Kilekwang developed a venture they call Tecnosafi. It’s a free cell-phone-based text subscription service that uses stories told via texts to communicate health information.

The text stories are tailored to specific communities, and after Chen is done in China, he and Kilekwang will spend a few months in West Pokot, Kenya, working with women and youth to develop stories told via text to combat waterborne disease. The partners hope to deliver their first series of text stories in West Pokot next year, during the wet season.

“My biology concentration and molecular biology/biochemistry coursework at Hamilton, along with the incredible research experiences that Hamilton has connected me to, have given me a solid background for that endeavor,” Chen says. “I was also a linguistics minor, which helped me with fluency in Swahili and French – super useful in East Africa.”

The concept that became Tecnosafi traces back to Chen’s semester studying in Tanzania, where he was struck by the massive popularity of cell phones and the problem of recurring waterborne disease.

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