Confidence to Explore: In this series, Shipley alumni show how the confidence they gained from their Shipley education didn’t end on graduation day. At a recent All School Assembly, Matt Lisle '11 shared how his experience as a Shipley student helped him gain the Confidence to Explore, looking beyond the traditional path to co-found water filtration company Everwaters.
I was a lifer at Shipley, so Shipley certainly had an influence on me when I was growing up. If I had to choose the most important thing my teachers at Shipley taught me, it would be to try what I'm not qualified to do.
When I was a junior, I wanted to get a summer job. One of my teachers gave me an idea: send an email to every engineering professor at Penn and ask for a research position. So I did. Three responded, and one said yes. Looking back, the work that I did in that fluid mechanics lab made me want to study mechanical engineering. It all started with one teacher's convincing me to try something I was in no way qualified for.
So after college, I did the exact same thing. I graduated last year, and I founded a company called Everwaters with a friend of mine. We traveled to Kenya and spent a couple of months learning about water access and the needs surrounding water in rural and urban areas. When we came home, the Flint Water Crisis happened, which turned into a national crisis — 18 million people drink water likely contaminated with lead. That's when it clicked. We decided to build a water filter that could work here and in Kenya for families lacking clean water. We just recently launched our Kickstarter to sell here in the US, and we are piloting the product through a local business in Kenya.
Now, I still wouldn't say I'm qualified to do what I'm doing, and it definitely was not a straight shot to get here. When I think back to middle school, I think my teachers would agree with me that I wasn't the easiest student to teach. Every day, multiple times a day, I'd slip out of class to the nurse's office to get candy — it's fair to say I was a regular there. Actually, my older sister, who also went to Shipley, was visiting one of our middle school teachers, and my teacher asked what I was up to. My sister mentioned what I was doing with Everwaters and my old teacher said something along the lines of, "Wow, what a transformation!"
And she was right! Shipley taught me to try what I'm not qualified to do, and for that, I owe my teachers a long overdue thank you.
Learn more about how The Shipley Method helps students gain the Confidence to Explore.