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Chemistry Calculus and Raffles by Erin Gray

Chemistry Calculus and Raffles by Erin Gray


We’re three weeks into school and I should be studying. I have a mountain of calculus problems to work on and a test this week in chemistry. The density of carbon at a concentration of 20 parts per million, standard temperature and pressure, isn’t exactly jumping at me. Yes, I should probably be working on that right now.

If there are 20 moles of carbon in one million moles of substrate and one mole of Carbon weighs 12 grams…

I’m walking towards the next establishment on the crowded University Drive, it looks like a coffee shop.

making it 240 grams of Carbon in one million moles of substrate…

I shoulder the door open and walk in. I take off my sunglasses and let my eyes adjust to the dim lighting. There’s a smiling woman behind the counter at the register. I smile back.

and one million moles of substrate can be converted into Liters… somehow….

“Hi! My name is Erin and I’m with Engineers Without Borders. Right now we’re raising money for our Bolivia project and I’m wondering if your business would be interested in helping.”

And just like that the chemistry problem disappears. It can wait for me; right now I have something more important to do. I know what you might say, “Nothing is more important than your education,” but on that point I must disagree. In EWB we’re working together with community leaders in a small Bolivian village to provide showers and latrines to their community. To me, this service IS an important part of my education. But latrines aren’t built on dreams.

This is where the coffee shops come in, and the sub shops, diners and hair salons. Our project can’t happen without funds, and this year those funds will be coming from a number of different places. We’ll have the lemonade booth at Spring Fling, the benefit dinner in February and of course there are lots of grants to write. But our most exciting fundraising event, the one we all look forward to, will for sure be the one I’m working on right now. What could be a better way to raise money than throwing a big party and having a raffle?

The event/raffle model has been working for centuries, and like all great schemes, it’s deceptively simple. Small business owners genuinely want to help, but no one can afford to give away money. What they can afford is to give away a few cups of coffee, some tamales, a book, a few pairs of socks; whatever it is they’re in the business of. That brings us to the bread and butter of your average raffle: the gift card.

The gift card is like raffle gold. Everybody wins. The business gets foot traffic and Engineers Without Borders gets pure profit from the raffle sales. Simple, but totally genius. A closed loop. Closed loops… I think we just learned about those in chemistry. Like I said: an important part of my education.


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Contributed by Erin Gray