Thursday, July 17, 2008

Day 4 - Problems, presentations and photos(and moringa!)

Finally knowing what projects they would be working on for the next month, the participants began today by attempting to define the context of the problem which they were attempting to solve. They were first instructed by Benjamin Linder and Harald Quintus Bosz on how to go about researching their projects and identifying stakeholders before splitting into their groups to start working on their own particular projects. This is an extremely important part of the design process as teams need to be sure of the work that has preceded them to avoid reproducing a similar, already implemented technology. However, the teams recognized this and the diversity of many of the teams helped them to bring a wide variety of examples and real life experience of current technologies available in the field.

In the afternoon we were treated to numerous participant presentations on work they are currently doing in their home countries. Thalia Konaris and Hayley Sharp began proceedings with a talk about Engineers Without Borders, an organization in which they are currently very involved with in the United Kingdom. The organization was set up to help educate and raise awareness among students about development and the positive impact that they, as engineers, can have on real-world problems. It has grown exponentially since then and now engages in propagating what one could deem "virtuous circles".

Through placements abroad engineers can work on a specific project and while there, can also gain facts, information and contacts to function as a different final year project for another EWB participant. These research projects are then implemented and thus the cycle continues on with more and more young people becoming stakeholders in the process. This presentation was made all the more impressive by the fact that the girls had to deal with a dodgy projector which kept cutting out on them! All in all though, this presentation highlighted the potential energy that can be harnessed within young people once the spark of development has been lit within them.

David Sokal and Derek Lomas, other IDDS 2008 participant's, then went on to give presentations about the potential for open cut bike tyres functioning as bike tracks, and "mobile phones as first computers", respectivley. David talked about the potential of converting what is currently an unused piece of waste into something which could have a very real use in developing countries. His idea was not to regrind the tires but rather to cut them open flat, and attempt to hold them together somehow. Derek presented a series of ideas from his MFA studies at UC San Diego and his overall message was on the need for people to address the current atmosphere of technology as the formation of many people's cultural awareness. The potential here for the use of such technology to advocate social change was clear for all to see.

The final presentation was given by Lamine Diakite, a participant currently working as President of the Red Cross committee in Guinea Conakay, treated the room to a fascinating presentation on moringa, a tree which has astonishing properties. He talked of the huge potential this multi faceted plant has to help combat malnutrition and a host of other critical problems facing developing countries. The tree is currently alive in some small pockets of the world but Lamine called for the need for an organization to work with the Red Cross and other projects to help the spread of knowledge about this "miracle" tree to those who are most desperately in need of it.

This presentation captured the attention of the whole room as many of us, myself included, had never heard of moringa and I could hear people typing the word Moringa into google on their laptops even as the lecture was still going on, such was their interest! Lamine delivered the entire presentation through his native French and this was duly translated by Alvaro Feito Boirac, another participant, furthering the multi lingual approach that has become a cornerstone of this years IDDS. Lamine handed some Moringa around the room after his presentation and told us we might even have the chance to sample some at our Barbecue tomorrow evening, if we were lucky!

A moringa tree

Just some of the many amazing attributes of moringa!

We then moved out onto the grass on Killian Court and were put through our paces by Donna Coveney, an MIT photographer who had kindly agreed to organize our group photograph. Eighty people attempted to spell out "IDDS 2008!" as Donna communicated from the second floor of building ten where exactly she wanted us all to be! All very complicated but the atmosphere on the grass was one of great camaraderie as participants defended the merits of their own particular letters with gusto(The second D was the place to be, just in case you were wondering).

We completed what had been quite a long day with a demonstration by Amy Smith on how to convert corn cobs into charcoal. This involved using heat to carbonize dried corn cobs and bamboo which we can then use hopefully as our source of fuel for tomorrow's barbecue!

The participants were then brought by our "Entertainment Emperor", Tombo Banda, for a night of Karaoke in the Thirsty Ear, MIT's local student bar. Participants didn't stay too late, however, as they had to be up bright and early for some idea generation on Friday morning!

1 comment:

Bryce! said...
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