Tuesday, July 8, 2008

D Day (-6) - Creativity and Corozos

I may as well continue where I left off last night and, if you can remember, our day was set to begin with some serious decision making. Each organizer had been assigned one of the projects in the 'maybe' category to research further and then present to the group. Benjamin Linder, one of last year's chief organizer's and the Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering in Olin College joined us to add his expertise to the selection process.

Amy talked to us about what she felt was the need for as much "creative space" to be left to the participants as physically possible and she also focused on the fact that the four week time frame did not leave too much time for extremly complicated projects. We thus decided that some of the projects we had on our shortlist were simply not feasible or did not have a specific enough design focus for a conference of IDDS' nature. We were then left to vote on the five remaining projects and surprisingly enough the turnout was almost unanimous in all cases. We decided on four projects and thus were left with a final total of fifteen options for the participants to choose from. The sheer potential of some of the projects was highlighted by Ben's exclamation of "holy cow!", as he mentally thought out the potential impact of one project.

There were two projects that did spark some debate, however. Miguel had been charged with researching the idea of a ten dollar computer and while he thought the project was worthwhile he felt that it was in some ways too similar to the work already being done by the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project. The idea behind OLPC is to produce an inexpensive laptop computer intended to be distributed to children in developing countries around the world,"to provide them with access to knowledge and opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves". The group then decided that our ten dollar computer project would work far better as a software project - perhaps with participants then designing through it interactive ways to show how to build or create some simple simple, extremely useful technologies.

A sample of the prototype computer for OLPC

We then moved on to discussing an extremely interesting project put forward by some of the Honduran participants. They were extremely excited about the potential for creating energy through the peeling of a Corozo(also known as Tagua) fruit found mainly in the South American climate. The fruit can not be found within America, however, and thus the Hondurans themselves must devise a way(possibly by cooking it beforehand) to make the fruit adhere to the high standards imposed by US Customs. All very exciting stuff. The Honduran participants arrive tomorrow so hopefully I will have some good news for you all on that front tomorrow evening.

A corozo fruit sample

We then moved on to discussing the t-shirt design we felt would best encapsulate the spirit and unique nature of IDDS. We eventually settled on a circular design that includes a wheel, a gear, an axle and also different parts of the globe representing the practical design and construction focus of the conference while at the same time highlighting how these collective design elements are helping to bring people from all over the world to work together. We must commend our design Guru, Deepa, at this point for coming up with such an innovative design concept. Here is a quick sneak preview...

The IDDS 2008 T-shirt

Later in the day myself and Laura were both sitting in room 16-168, IDDS headquarters if you remember, working in silence on our various tasks for the day. Suddenly Laura shouts out "they are coming TOMORROW!" and begins to laugh hysterically. We have all gotten used to Laura's frequent public interjections to herself over the course of the last few days so this should come as no surprise. For once, however, I felt I shared her feeling of juxtaposition between extreme excitement at their arrival, and extreme apprehension that there had been something really important that had been left undone. Hopefully someone is scheduled to pick them up from the airport, they will have a bed to sleep in tomorrow night and thus hopefully my blog can remain light and cheerful for at least another day.


Laura said...

"Hysterically?" Really, Niall, I hope my laughter was more joyful and full of relief than hysterical. ;)

Also, I would like to note that we have asked the Honduran participants to be absolutely honest about corozas/corozos fruit with US customs officers.

US customs has a very daunting task of trying to control invasive foreign pests and IDDS in no way wants to undermine this goal. (For example, it would be terrible if there was an outbreak of Honduran tree weevils that decimated the strawberry crops in Massachusetts and the source was pinpointed back to IDDS.)

Amy often brings back agricultural items from her trips to other countries, and she is always honest with the customs officers. More often than not, they decide that her corn, jatropha, or peanut samples are acceptable.

I think the Hondurans may try to cook their corozas fruit to improve their chances of passing customs standards, but if the fruit is confiscated, I trust the customs officers will have good reasons for doing so.

grey cells said...

Hi - I just found this blog - didn't realize so much was going on before the participants arrived. Can't wait to see the list of projects and get started!!

Dave Sokal, Durham, NC