Friday, August 8, 2008

Day 26 - Saying Goodbye

IDDS 2008 officially drew to a close this morning as we converged on room 16-160, the room in which the conference began over four weeks ago. Each team were presented with certificates signed by Amy, Ben and Harald and there were more than a few moist eyes during the speeches that were made. Alvaro had been elected by his fellow participants to speak on their behalf at this final event and he spoke beautifully about how humbling an experience IDDS had been for him. He imagined himself getting smaller with every fantastic person he met and inspiring story he heard. Yet, despite this, he says he will leave MIT and IDDS full of belief in the art of the possible. I certainly agree with this sentiment and have spent the summer realizing just how within our grasp positive change in the world really is.

Amy spoke about her delight at having gotten to know all of us and her sadness at having to say goodbye so soon. She told us that at IDDS she had expected to create technologies but never thought that she would help create a family. The exceptionally close bond between all the participants and organizers is mind boggling given that we have only known each other for less than four weeks. The common purpose, the common driving force that Suprio talked about in his speech, most certainly had a large hand to play in this family's creation. Amy used an oft quoted line from Margaret Mead to wrap up the conference , "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has", but added that she really felt it was appropriate to the IDDS group.

IDDS was a superb experience for all involved, not least myself, and we can now look forward to the advancement of projects created at this years conference and the planning and organizing of next year's in Ghana. It seemed to me a little odd that an English major from Ireland could never really find the right words to describe a conference that is unequivocally unique. That right seemed to be reserved for physicists from France, bike mechanics from India and even a certain mechanical engineering lecturer in MIT. Nevertheless, I hope you have enjoyed my attempts over the past eight weeks and I look forward with anticipation to seeing IDDS continue to grow and develop. I'll finish with a a sneak preview of two of next summer's main protagonists...


Crossman and John plan for the future in Ghana

Keep reading...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Day 25 - Reflecting on the past and planning for the future



After the heady heights of the final presentations the participants began the less exciting process of lab clean up this morning. However, in the IDDS spirit, everyone chipped in with a smile on their face and before lunchtime we had completed a large part of what needed to be done. One part that that the participants did not enjoy was dismantling some of their prototypes! The Ropeway team, in particular, seemed sad to say goodbye to the transport system they had been working on for the past three weeks.

Once a semblance of order had been placed on the labs it was time for our final round of participant presentations. All in all I think there has been a total of thirty presentations this year and this has, without doubt, contributed to the atmosphere of sharing and learning that has pervaded at IDDS 2008. The diversity inherent within IDDS came across most clearly during these presentations and today was no exception with room 16-160 seeing presentations from Zambia, Tibet, America, Brazil and Mexico! Michelle and Marcio talked about the separate work they were doing in water testing and purification before Shamo talked to us about a project aimed at supporting education through English training programs in the Tibetan region.


Michelle talks to the group about the work she is doing in water testing

The group then broke for lunch and pizza before the next set of presentations. The eagerness that existed in the participants to share their ideas and experiences was plain for all to see and sparked many discussions among them and hopefully many future collaborations! After lunch Oswin presented to the group on the work he was doing in his home in rural Zambia with Heifer International in providing families with "no-interest living loans" in the form of cattle. Families then pass on the female offspring of these cattle to their neighbours and the cycle then becomes self perpetuating. Silvia then gave an extremely interesting presentation on Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja, the University in which she currently lectures in Chemistry. The University's main focus is on region and country development and could well provide a model for many more of its type to emerge around the world. Finally, David Sokal presented research he had completed on a female condom that could be applied to developing countries. A lot of information to absorb in less than an hour!



The pizza didn't last long!

Oswin presents an aspect of his work in Zambia to the group

Jesse translates for Silvia during her presentation on her home University


David Sokal presents his female condom prototype


We then moved on to the most hotly anticipated announcement and presentation of the day - where would IDDS 2009 be held? There had been rumours floating around all week that the 4 week conference would be moving abroad and India, Brazil and Zambia had been mentioned but it was finally confirmed that IDDS 2009 would be taking place in Kumasi, Ghana. Organizers from MIT and from past and present IDDS' will work together with KNUST(Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology) as IDDS moves away from MIT for the very first time. We were treated to a very enthusiastic presentation from George Fuachie, George Obeng, Crossman Hormenoo and John Quansah on KNUST and their hopes for the 09' conference. Participants will work closely with Swame Magazine(a collection of 80,000 artisans, engineers and mechanics in Kumasi and the third largest of its type in Africa) and will also have full use of the KNUST facilities.


The most obvious reason for re-locating to Ghana, however, is that participants will be far better able to judge the conditions and available materials in the developing world context. There are also plans to have participants travel out to local rural villages, like the one in which George Fuachie is a pastor, to talk to villagers about the problems they are facing and thus make much more informed decisions about the problems they are attempting to solve and the technologies they are attempting to create. Everyone involved in IDDS is hugely excited about the prospect of the summit being held in Ghana and the atmosphere in the room was laden with anticipation and excitement. We even saw where the 09' participants would be living!

The final evaluations for IDDS quickly followed the Ghana presentation and there was a huge amount of positive feedback from the participants on the conference and also some very important and much appreciated constructive criticism. We hope to use these evaluations as a building block towards the creation of an even more successful IDDS in Ghana. Participants were also informed of the funding available for continuation of their projects and for international collaboration and the process involved in each of these. Participants were particularly interested in this session as all teams were eager to continue their projects, having put so much effort in during their four weeks at MIT.

We all then returned to the dorms to prepare for the hotly anticipated talent show, due to take place later in the evening. The event was most certainly a highlight of the IDDS experience for me, with participants and organizers alike throwing off any inhibitions they may have had and showcasing a wonderful array of talents. The atmosphere in the room was so positive that it was impossible not to be caught up in it and this has positivity has been one of IDDS' finest characteristics for me. I even got up to perform with four of the guys but thankfully the video for this cannot be sourced and thus our dignity can remain intact!


video

Suprio sings a beautiful Indian song


video
The Bush room turns into an impromptu venue for a rock concert!


video
Alvaro and Francesca dance in Lobby 10 to music from IDDS' very own string quartet

As you can see from these short performances, of which there were about twenty, the IDDS group really are a hugely talented bunch of people. Unfortunately, one of our most exuberant and talented participants, Stephen Gerrard, had to leave for England an hour before the show but he still managed to make an appearance via a quite hilarious set of homemade videos. The crowd were in stitches of laughter as Stephen shared his talents with the group!


video

Stephen Gerrard displaying just one of his many talents

Keep reading...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Day 24 - Final Presentations

Participants spent the morning frantically putting the final pieces of their projects together, as the realization slowly dawned on the teams that the day which they had been working towards for the last few weeks was finally upon them. The presentations were due to take place in the Bartos theatre, in the Media Lab on the West side of campus, and teams were given instructions to report to the main lobby with their posters and prototypes by 3pm, to make sure that we were able to start on time. The attention to detail that the participants and teams paid was exceptional and some unusual requests were made throughout the morning to achieve this!


Limbor, from the ISSB team, recreates heat from the sun by putting his bricks in the oven!

Once the participants had changed out of their workshop clothes and into something more formal, the rush began to move tables, chairs, prototypes, posters, easels(and people!) from the workshops to the Media Lab. Of course, once we got out into the open, it started raining and passers by gazed in wonder as Pearl Millet threshers, charcoal crushers, soil block makers and power generation pumps made their way across the busy street at a rapid pace! Meanwhile, the ropeway transport team were setting up their comparatively huge prototype outside of the Stata centre near IDDS central, preparing to test their model for the first time. They seemed confident it would work when I spoke to them in the morning so there was no surprise when we heard cries of success echoing around the outdoor amphitheatre at Stata!



The pearl millet thresher prototype on it's way to the Media Lab


Once the teams had set up their stall on the ground floor of the Media Lab we were free to catch a sneak preview of each of the team's finished prototypes. The teams have come up with some extremely innovative mechanisms, research and techniques and participant's explained to each other and the other organizers what they had achieved. One of the most interesting projects throughout the conference has been the the Power Generation team and they most certainly didn't disappoint with their final prototype. Over the last three weeks they have developed a system whereby the use of a treadle pump, conventionally designed to irrigate fields, can simultaneously charge batteries which can then function as a form of alternative energy. I was delighted to see their connected light burn brightly as I worked hard on the treadle pump!


The power generation team with their two prototypes

Amanda admires one of the Power Generation prototypes


Two other teams that caught my eye before the final presentations officially began were the Pearl Millet Threshers and the Charcoal Crushers. Both of these teams had also achieved very visible results from their time in the workshops. The Pearl Millet team had developed a superb pedal powered mechanism, centered around bike spokes and tyre flaps, for threshing millet, the staple crop for many rural communities in Africa. They plan to test their prototype in Nicaragua at the nearest possible opportunity to see their products viability in a local context. Amy had shown us earlier in the conference how to make charcoal from agricultural waste and the charcoal crushing team had then come up with a low cost and easy to assemble machine for crushing these charcoal corn cobs into powder. This powder can then be then turned into charcoal briquettes, a far more sustainable form of energy than currently available in many rural communities in the developing world.


video

Yours truly relishing the chance to try out the superb Pearl Millet Thresher!


video

Thalia, from the pearl millet team, tries out the Charcoal crusher

These were by no means the only interesting projects and prototypes on show in the Media Lab, however. The SNAP(System for nucleic acid purification) team have developed, in conjunction with technology under development in Boston University, a hand held device which greatly simplifies the process of medical diagnostic testing and can be used in the developing world to help diagnose patients quicker, without the need for them to leave their own communities. The ISSB(Interlocking Stabilized Soil Brick Maker) team have been working on a system that compresses soil and cement into bricks which then have the capability of locking together. This project is intended for initial use in Malawi, a country which currently loses 200 square miles of its forests annually and has huge potential for providing affordable, sustainable housing for its poorest communities.


One of the interlocking stabilized soil block(ISSB) team's posters



Two projects at this year's IDDS focused on the health and well being of new born babies in the developing world. The Breast Milk team began the conference with the goal of creating a system for Flash heating of breast milk so that mother's could avoid transmitting the HIV virus to their children during breast feeding. Their eventual idea and prototype could not be more different however. The team were unique in the history of IDDS in being given access to laboratories at MIT and they conducted over 300 experiments into determining whether or not their nipple shield prototype could be a step in the right direction for research in this field and so far, the results are promising. The team have taken out a year long patent on their idea and Stephen, a chemical engineer at Cambridge, has plans to continue testing as soon as he returns to England!


The Breast Milk team(Project M) pose for a photo


The other related, and at the same time completely different, project this year was the Low Cost Incubator. The idea behind this project was to develop an incubator for use in the developing world which would be easy and cheap to assemble and maintain. The model they have devised most certainly has the potential to do this as each of the working parts of the incubator(the heater, humidifier, oxygen) are all separate modules are made out of locally available parts and can be taken out and put back in easily. In addition to this, the bed that the baby lies on can also be removed and carried easily which could be of huge benefit in the remote, rural health centres at which this product is aimed. The team has also had numerous sample babies throughout the conference, with the latest of these being the deceptively life like puppy seen in the picture below!


The incubator team guard their prototype protectively!

Running slightly behind schedule in the IDDS style we began to make our way into the Bartos theatre at about 4.15pm, in great anticipation of the final presentations. Close to 300 hundred people from both inside and outside of the MIT community attended the event and there was even a film crew inside to make the participants even more nervous! They had, earlier in the week, been given the chance to select one participant to open the ceremony and it came as no surprise that Suprio Das was chosen. Suprio devises technologies in his workshop in his local community in Kolkata, India and then attempts to disseminate them to as many people as possible, improving the lives of people around him to the best of his abilities. I think that many of the participants, organizers(myself included) and mentors at IDDS can say that their own lives have been enriched through interaction with Suprio's intense motivation and even dryer wit and his speech to open proceedings today was wonderfully elegant in its entirety.

video
Suprio opens the final presentations with a wonderful choice of words

Amy then took the floor, introducing the goals and vision behind IDDS and before going on to highlight that the group in its entirety spoke over 30 languages! She praised this exceptional diversity that exists at IDDS and highlighted the range of disciplines at IDDS including "students and teachers, professors and pastors, economists and engineers, masons and mechanics, doctors, welders, farmers and community organizers". Amy stressed that the central idea, the guiding principle behind bringing such a huge variety of people together, was that of co-creation, "the concept that it is better to provide communities with the skills and tools they need to create technologies, rather than just giving them the technologies themselves". The atmosphere of learning and knowledge sharing that pervaded at IDDS 2008 will hopefully have enabled this idea to take shape!

Amy then went on to introduce each of the ten teams, each of whom took to the stage confidently and managed to give short, concise synopses of their projects under stringent time constraints and a significant amount of pressure . The experience that teams had presenting their ideas to design reviewers the previous two Friday's clearly played a big role in the composure and professionalism that were displayed on stage. Sunil, of the Ropeway transport system, somehow even managed to squeeze in some humour in his presentation!

video

Sunil presents the Ropeway transport system to the audience

video

Jessica Huang and Jay Pagnis explain their Power Generation pump

video

Brian Rasnow explains the Pearl Millet Thresher

Once the participants had completed their presentations Amy thanked all the sponsors who had made IDDS possible this year, and gave a special mention to the Rockefeller foundation who contributed largely to the 4 week conference but who have also made crucial funding available for the all important continuation of the projects. We then moved back outside into the lobby and the audience were then given a chance to chat to each of the individual teams at their respective stands. Participants were only to happy to show off the work they had put so much into over the last month and took time to show both students, professors and reporters alike the ins and outs of their projects.

John Shaba explains the ISSB mechanism to an interested onlooker

video

Kenny gets up out of his wheelchair to try out his team's treadle power pump, using only one leg!

One project which drew a lot of Media attention was that of the Educational TV Computer and this attention often placed this project in competition with the OLPC(One laptop per child) project worked on by MIT's Media Lab. This could not be further from the truth, however, and George Fuachie, in his short presentation on the project, made this clear from the outset. The ED-TV project does not aim to create a new cheap computer, rather it seeks to use existing, low cost and already available TV computer technology to supplement education in rural Ghana. George highlighted that this was a necessity as many of the government run schools in rural Ghana were of poor quality and thus this idea of computer aided learning has huge potential to transform education in these rural communities. So the team, essentially, is working on creating a software development kit which could facilitate local educational content development. George will now bring this project with him back to Ghana, assess its viability in the market and then hopefully work with his team to bring the project to the next level!


One of the educational TV computer team's posters

The bottom floor of the Media Lab, where the presentations took place


Overall the final presentations were an incredibly successful event and I personally felt they represented a vindication of the IDDS mantra, to produce "prototypes, not papers or proceedings." These concrete solutions to issues that affect the world's poorest communities are what make IDDS such a special conference to be involved in and to have had the privilege to see the transformation of basic ideas into fully developed prototypes in the space of three weeks has left me feeling more than a little awed. Suprio, in his speech which you may have viewed above, spoke about the motivation, the driving force, behind the work and long hours that participants had put into IDDS 2008. His conclusion, that the binding force between participants, organizers, mentors and sponsors is that "we all look forward to have this world a better place to live in", is refreshing in its simplicity and encapsulated the spirit that has infected all of us involved in IDDS 2008.



Stephen and Geoff, of the Breast Milk team, letting off some steam at the Ropeway system outside Stata

After the final presentations the group went across the Charles river for a well deserved feast at the Island Hopper restaurant. Participants were unsure as what to do when given a few hours free time at the end of the day, simply because it has happened so rarely at this conference. We will all be back in the labs tomorrow morning, for a day packed with lab clean ups, evaluations, participant presentations and the hotly anticipated talent show(rumour has it that the Backstreet Boys will be attending but we are unable to confirm this as of yet).

Keep reading...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Day 23 - Frantic last minute preparations

The participants were quite literally left to their own devices today, with D-lab and the other workshops the hub of all activity. Teams were tasked with having prototypes, posters and two minute presentations ready for the all important showcase at 4pm tomorrow. The idea behind the posters and the presentations is that teams will be able to give some basic background information on the context of the problem they have been working on, the design techniques and processes they have applied and the ultimate innovation they achieved. The final presentations represent for us a chance to celebrate the work participants have put in over the last four weeks but it also should be seen as an opportunity for the teams to gain useful contacts with a view to hopefully bringing their projects to the next stage. I, for one, am excited about the potential of the prototypes I have seen so far!

Here are some shots of the participants at work today:



Kurt Kornbluth explains an idea to Gustavo Fujiwara


Shaibu Laizer makes some final parts for the pico hydro prototype


Jagdish and Alvaro get to grips with a part of their Ropeway transport system

Lamine Diakite takes some time out during a busy day!


Some (almost ready) stabilized soil blocks


Bernard, from the Charcoal crushing team, helps Madeleine with a key part for her teams Incubator prototype

Keep reading...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Day 22 - Pyromaniacs, Paul Polak and Participant Presentations

The final week of IDDS 2008 began with our final charcoal burn. We are all very grateful for our Charcoal Crushing team this year as their seemingly unquenchable demand for charcoal corn cobs has led to us having so many of these exciting events. As it turns out, the pyromaniancs in our group will rise as early as 730am once they know there is going to be a large open flame on show before eight o'clock! The atmosphere at the Kresge was one of intense excitement though, as teams plotted the final stages of their projects over veggie burgers and eggs roasted on sticks.


The group admire the roasting heat early in the morning

Jessica Vechakul puts safety first?


Paul Polak then presented to the participants for the second time during the conference. IDDS 2008 was delighted to have this mercurial psychiatrist turned entrepreneur back in our midst, even if it was only for twenty four hours. He spoke to us about the marketing and implementation processes that were crucial to the success of any new appropriate technology. He highlighted the specific nature of markets in the developing world and spoke further on his theory that you must first speak to twenty five people in a village before you can even begin to understand the specific needs and problems that exist there.

video

Paul Polak speaks to participants about the importance of product implementation


He went on to challenge the participants and teams to use hime as a resource and speak to him individually about their specific projects and how they could be made applicable to the market. Alvaro, of the Ropeway Transport team, pointed out that their team were attempting to meet a specific need, that of women in a particular village in the Himalayas, and as such had no plans to scale up their projerct as of yet.

Jagdish Bhandari of India makes some adjustments to one of the Ropeway towers



The teams spent the vast majority of the day in the workshops building and testing their prototpyes in preparation for the final presentations on Wednesday. Some teams appear closer to their final prototype than others but Amy, speaking from her experience of IDDS 2007, is confident that come Wednesday, all the teams will have their projects ready for presentation, even if it means working through the night! Due to thew huge diversity in the range of the projects some teams will have a far more concrete prototpye than others. Projects such as the power generation from treadle pump, the charcoal crusher and the pearl millet thresher are mechanically based and as such will (hopefully) have a working proptype to show on Wednesday. On the other hand the Hand Held Diagnostic tool, the Breast milk project and the Educational TV computer will need to be continued on after the summit has ended and therefore they will not have 'working' prototpes per se.

Lico and Limbor work out the pressure to be exerted in their stabilized soil block maker

Madeleine with a transportable model of the low cost incubator


One would have thought that this would have been more than enough to keep the IDDS participants' busy but apparently not - this evening we were treated to yet another round of participant presentations. These have been a real highlight of this year's conference, with participants eager both to share the work they are doing at home and to learn about technologies, design methods, experiences and ideas that others have to offer. Brian Rasnow presented on an extremely interesting project he had been working on to attempt to produce a low cost microscope and we were also given the chance to hear from participants from Honduras, Zambia and even from Texas, USA. Not even a moment to draw breath for the participants after this as they rushed back to their all important projects!

Kenneth Muyayaeta gives a presentation on the work he does with Disacare International in his native Zambia

Keep reading...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Day 21 - The calm before the storm

Every team was working almost all day today, with the exception of the Low Cost Incubator team, who worked part way through the night also! The real frantic work sessions will properly start tomorrow morning however, and will run uninterrupted through Wednesday afternoon. All the teams are excited about being on the final stretch and hope that they can come up with something truly innovative by Wednesday at 4pm. I guess sleep will have to take a back seat from here on in...



Madeleine works through the night on the new look low cost incubator

Keep reading...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Day 20 - Building prototypes in the workshops

Today found the ropeway transport team, among many others, deep within the confines of D-lab and the other workshops. The level of dedication shown by the participants at this crucial stage of the design process is inspiring and has left the organizers quite optimistic that every team will have some concrete results to present to the public at the final presentations next Wednesday. Not even the prospect of a soccer game could lure Pilo away from his welding, although I must say he was tempted! About twenty of us did go in for a game of soccer, playing for two hours in the torrential rain, with Tombo Banda in flying form at the head of our attack!

Alvaro dissects some bike parts for the Ropeway Transport team


Thankfully, the weather cleared up for our barbecue at the Kresge pits. We provided participants with hot dogs, burgers and the all important veggie food for those of that persuasion and we also gave them the chance to silk screen their own IDDS T-shirts. Rather than simply ordering the t-shirts printed we decided, in keeping with the spirit of IDDS, to make the screen itself and allow each participant to smooth the IDDS logo on to the front of the black t-shirt's themselves! We plan to screen the design for the back of the t-shirt later in the week.


Lamine and Amy work together to screen t-shirts


Lamine with his freshly screened IDDS T-shirt

This was followed by the widely acclaimed Charcoal Olympics. This is an event whereby participants aim to see how many solid charcoal briquettes they can make out of ground charcoal within a thirty second time frame. Last year, Miguel Chaves, our favorite Brazilian, caused controversy by defeating the previously unchallenged world champion, Amy Smith. The level of tension among participants was high as they each battled through the individual heats to reach the final, where the champion of IDDS 2008 would be decided.


One of the early heats!


Andres, Winnie and some Charcoal War Paint

Bernard, Rafael and Limbor were the early pace-setters in the heats before Sumit Pahwa threw down the gauntlet with a truly Olympian score of five briquettes. The stage was then set for the final showdown with Amy, Miguel, Sumit, Joshua and the "pretender to the throne", Anuj Nanavati, taking their places around the box of powdered charcoal. After a frantic thirty seconds, and a few false starts, Sumit was declared the overall champion of the 2008 Charcoal Olympics. Sumit was understandably emotional during his acceptance speech and he thanked his parents, his friends and his mentor, Chaves, for helping him reach this pinnacle of sporting achievement. Pahwa was quick to distance himself from comments linking him to performance enhancing drugs and can now enjoy the remainder of his IDDS experience safe in the knowledge that he can call himself, at least until 2009, the undisputed charcoal champion.




Sumit psyches himself up before the Olympics

Keep reading...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Day 19 - Design Reviews part duex

The labs were a busy place this morning as teams continued their work on their projects with the aim of having as complete a prototype as possible available for the design reviews at 1pm. The teams are all aware of the importance of this set of reviews, as they realize that this represents their their last chance to get specific feedback from design consultants on the direction of their projects.

I sat in on the review in room 16-160 and thus had the pleasure of seeing the Charcoal Crushers, the Breast Milk Treatment team, the low cost Incubator team and the Pico Hydro power all present their projects. The Charcoal Crusher's were first up easily captured the attention of the audience with their already functioning prototype. The reviewers asked some tough questions about the prototype, some of which the team had answers to, some of which they said were already on their "to do" list and some of which they had not previously considered. This last category is of course the most useful and the team made sure to note down the potential methods, ideas and changes that were suggested by the reviewers.

video

The charcoal team demonstrate their machine

The charcoal crushing team's explains some project specifications

This process was then repeated for each of the teams, with the large variety of reviewers offering a wide range of views and expertise on the projects. There were some minor concerns expressed about the specific design focus of both the Pico Hydro team and the low cost Incubator but the participants I spoke to on both of those teams said they were eager to hear the advice and suggestions that the reviewers had, as only positives could come out of it. All of the teams are now looking forward to getting the chance to implement these design suggestions and changes into their prototypes over the upcoming weekend.

The current low cost incubator model, complete with sample baby!

Johanna and Shaibu field questions about Micro (pico) Hydro power

The Power Generation team pose with their treadle pump at the Design review

Doctor David Sokal, of the Breast milk team, explains a key concept to a design reviewer

The participants finished up the week by completing another set of evaluations and heading out to the sports field for another game of Ultimate Frisbee. While we were out enjoying ourselves we were surprised to see numerous police cars and fire engines pull up outside the entrance to Burton Conner, our dorm! We were initially worried that something serious had happened but thankfully, it was only a minor incident, and the whole evacuation process was recorded and made into an extremely amusing video by Suprio Das. I think the caption he put under it when he sent it to me was "What's cooking?"...

video
Suprio's home made video of the evacuation, with a hint at the cause behind it!

Keep reading...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 18 - Foundations and funding

This morning we were given another presentation by Kurt Kornbluth that was a little bit about his work at UC Davis, a little bit about the design process, and a huge amount of spilled water everywhere! He talked about some lighting and energy storage projects that he was working on and even at the early time of 10am, participants expressed huge interest in the type of work that he was presenting. He gave the audience four crucial tips for design; build often and early; quantify your results; ask "will it pay for itself"?; and 'sure, you'll sell a million, but how are you going to do that?' Kurt's energy and enthusiasm can only be described as infectious and some of it has most certainly rubbed off on some of the participants, many of whom he has been working with quite closely on a number of the projects over the last week.


The participants then had an afternoon and a morning work session split by a presentation from Kate Lessard, of foundation relations in MIT. She informed participants about the different avenues to pursue for funding projects and went into detail about how to work with Foundations to help fund charitable organizations. She simplified quite a complex process by telling the participants that some key questions needed to be asked of themselves even before they approach the foundations themselves. The key questions went something like this:


What problem will you solve?
Who will be served?
How many people will be served?
Why now?
How will you measure impact?
How will you sustain the project (what will happen in the long run)?


This session, in conjunction with the entrepreneurship session given by Paul Hudnut, and the lunch sponsored by the Public Service Centre, has the aim of helping to provide participants with the necessary tools and information to help them implement their projects once they leave MIT at the end of the conference. Kate also highlighted the importance of building a good working relationship with the foundation that is sponsoring you to ensure that the goals of those behind the project, and those behind the funds, are completely aligned.
Siobhan from the Power generation team examining their wheel mechanism


Charcoal Crushers casting concrete rollers

The ropeway transport system team looking for some cheap materials!


Dr. David Sokal, from the Breast Milk team, ready for some testing


In the evening, there was a presentation by TIE Boston, Social Entrepreneur division on Global Crisis for Water and Sanitation. We were provided with some Indian food for the dinner before a panel which included Denise D. Knight of the Coca Cola Company’s Water Sustainability Initiative; Michael Delaney, Director of Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Response; Dr. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Asoc. Prof., MIT and Lotika Paintal, founder of a start up non-profit, Water Centric. Lotika was also moderating the panel and I found her presentation on her newly formed venture, Water Centric extremely interesting. It gave an insight into the ways in which a newly formed venture could effectively tackle a very specific issues by working closely with community partners.


The panel finished at about 8pm but most teams continued to work late into the night, in preparation for the second round of design reviews, due to take place tomorrow afternoon. Taking into account the long work hours, the level of camaraderie and energy the participants have shown is exceptional. The rope way transport team, in particular, always seem to be up to some kind of mischief, hidden away in D-lab!



video
Winnie hard at work in the orphanage...sorry - I meant workshop!

Keep reading...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day 17 - Bikes not Bombs

Participants returned to the workshops this morning with renewed vigour, after their break the previous evening. Some of the teams are moving on to their second and third prototypes at this stage and the work spaces are a cacophony of noise with participants anxiously experimenting with their various projects. Participants were delighted to be finally able to spend a full, interrupted day in the workshops, as their projects are now entering a crucial stage. There is still time for teams to try out and build different designs but come the weekend they will have to have centered in on the specific prototype they want to build, otherwise there will simply not be enough time left!





Some quality craftsmanship from Joshua on the newly refined Charcoal Crusher






Sunil using bike parts for the rope way team




Participants get to grips with some welding for their projects




After a tiring day, we organized a trip to Bikes not Bombs, a Boston based non-profit, for the participants. We made sure to clarify that the trip was optional but the prospect of free dinner meant that very few of the participants stayed at the dorms! Bikes not Bombs were established in 1985 and aim to provide bicycle technology as a concrete alternative to war and environmental destruction. They work with community partners in Tanzania, Guatemala and a host of other countries and have sent over 33,000 bikes to Central America, the Caribbean and Africa (and New Orleans) in the last 24 years, providing old or damaged bicycles to local villages. The home organization, such as Global Alliance in Tanzania, then works to fix these bicycles, sell them at reasonable prices to the locals, and in the case of Bernard, dismantle them to work on new pedal powered forms of technology!


The dinner table at Bikes not Bombs

After a quick potluck dinner, with meals provided by Crossman, John, Zubaida, Sumit and other organizers we were free to move onto some quick presentations. The founder of Bikes not Bombs, Carl Kurz, gave us a brief introduction into their work before opening the floor up to the IDDS participants. Laura then introduced our two presenters for the evening, Shaibu Laizer and Carlos Enrique Marroquin Machan, from Tanzania and Guatemala respectively. Both Shaibu and Carlos are direct beneficiaries of bikes from the organization, which have been sent to their home countries, and as such were delighted to present!



Laura introduces IDDS to the folks fat Bikes not Bombs



Shaibu was understandably nervous, as it was his first time presenting to a group, but he overcame this and gave us an insightful presentation about the impact that an organization like Global Alliance can have on empowering communities and young people in particular. He talked in detail about his respect for the organization based on his own experience, growing up as an orphan in Tanzania and not having the financial means to complete his education. Global Alliance gave him the chance to work with and for the community, under his mentor Bernard Kiwia, and he is now employed as a bike workshop manager in his native Arusha. Shaibu's presentation, and the confident young individual in front of us, sent an extremely powerful message about the importance of grassroots organizations such as Global Alliance. To find out more about the work that Global Alliance does in Africa visit http://www.globalallianceafrica.org/ .


Bernard and Shaibu field questions about Global Alliance


We were then given the opportunity to hear about the innovative work that is currently being done at Carlos's workshop, Maya Pedal, in Guatemala. Carlos has come up with a variety of methods to harness energy using pedal power and had pictures of washing machines and a number of other appliances running without electricity. His organization then attempt to bring this technology to as many people in the community as possible but Carlos spoke of the difficulty inherent in this due to the current lack of funding available for his organization. Some participants were extremely interested in Carlos' technologies and we hope that the funding available from the Rockefeller foundation can facilitate people like Joshua Cholobesa, one of our Zambian participants, and Carlos working together on projects in the future. Find out more about Maya Pedal by visiting http://www.mayapedal.org/ .




Carlos presents his finely crafted work at Maya Pedal in Guatemala

One of Carlos' technologies in action


Keep reading...