Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 8 - Prototype concepts and phone calls

Our second week at IDDS started far less chaotically than the first. The participants made their way to room 32 -141(the location for the majority of this week's lectures) at 9am for a quick, early morning session on conference logistics for the day. The focus today was again on idea generation and Ben Linder pressed home to the participants the importance of exploring as many different avenues as possible, as opposed to adopting a narrow focus too early. Ben and Amy then went through an extremely amusing but highly informative role play centered around selling a product based solely on its physical features. The idea of this activity was to remind the teams that what they are attempting to prototype must be an idea they are capable of selling to people!

The participants then split up into their respective teams to begin working out concepts for their various ideas and sketches. The teams have already done quite a bit of research into the underlying problem behind what they are trying to create and are also still in the process of finding out all previous research that has been done in that area. Many of the teams have been making contact with individuals and groups from all over the globe to try and find out more specific details about research paper's and to try and find out on the ground information in developing countries where the problem exists. Elizabeth Kneen, from the System for Flash Heating Breast Milk team, told me that they plan to talk to doctors in Zimbabwe and Malawi, have already made contact with people from Tanzania, China, Philadelphia, California, and even had a chat with some PHD students in Newcastle, England!

Shamo Thar and John Shaba working on the Interlocking Stabilized soil block maker

George Fuachie explains an idea to his fellow $10 computer team members, Miguel and Anuj

Pilo Banegas from Honduras working out some initial concept models for a Rope way Transport System

The Power generation from Mechanical Device team hard at work

After a day filled with sketches and sticky notes we met as a group at Lobby 10, just inside the main entrance to MIT. Once there we split into groups to take participants to a variety of grocery stores, so they could purchase some traditional food for the potluck dinner on Wednesday evening. Groups were led to Chinatown, Shaws, Trader Joe's and then the largest posse, of which I was a part, took a bus to Tropical Foods.

This store has a variety of food items from around the world, and as such many of the participants were thrilled to recognize their favorite foods. The Zambians; Joshua, Oswin, Dennis and Kenneth, were particularly glad to be able to stock up on Nshima, a staple starch food made from maize flour and water. They told me that they eat this food everyday in their home country and thus they tried to grab as much of it as they could to bring back to the dorms!

It was then time for me to me to think of an Irish dish that I could make for the Potluck dinner. I literally had my phone in my hand, on the verge of ringing home to plead with my mother for help, when I had a moment of inspiration. Strolling down the cereal aisle I came across a well known American cereal called "Lucky Charms" which plays heavily on the Irish leprechaun stereotype and simply had to buy it. Leaving the store(I also bought fish and potatoes) Nathan Cooke, a participant currently studying at the Art Center College of Design in Passadena, grabbed hold of my bag and triumphantly declared that he had "got hold of me lucky charms". He then stopped for a moment before declaring that he had in fact "been waiting his entire life" to be able to say that. I am glad to see that the Irish are still a source of amusement over here!

Yours truly, playing up to a good old fashioned stereotype

On the bus back to MIT Shaibu Laizer, a participant hailing from Arusha in Tanzania, promised that he would cook me some ugali(the Swahili way of saying nchima) once we returned to the dorms. Shaibu is employed as a bike workshop manager for Global Alliance in his native Tanzania and his work centers around repairing bikes sent from Bikes not Bombs, a company which has a base here in Boston. He also works closely with Bernard Kiwia in dismantling these bikes and attempting to create new pedal powered forms of energy from the remaining parts. He told me of his delight in having the chance to come to MIT this summer and stressed his desire to take home ideas and technologies that he can use and employ in his work in Arusha.

True to his word Shaibu made me a thoroughly enjoyable meal of Ugali and soup and was the perfect host, despite the fact that he could barely contain his laughter at the way I was attempting to smooth the Ugali with my hands(you do not use cutlery when eating this meal). We then joined some of the participants for a game of soccer that went late into the night. As I made my way to bed at about 2am I overheard a phone call that the Breast milk team were making to Malawi. This level of effort and commitment seems to be spread throughout the teams and I only hope it continues as the days and weeks go on!

Ugali(Nchima) with Cabbage


Robert Katz said...

Hey Niall, thanks for the awesome blog. It was great to join the IDDS for even one day this week. I was glad to write a little about it on our blog,, including a dispatch from the Potluck dinner:

Keep up the good work and enjoy the rest of IDDS.


Robert Katz said...

Whoops, here's a link to the post in question. Sorry about that. Some blogger I am...!

gembel-intelek said...

nice post and make me hungry

tech blog