Friday, July 31, 2009

Theory into Practice

The last week has been spent in the workshops, as teams finally had the chance to start building their prototypes. There has been some awesome progress made by all of the teams and there are individual project team updates on their way to the blog, very soon. So much has happened this week, and I’ve only got thirty minutes before we depart for the villages so as such this entry will be mainly picture based, but I’ll squeeze in as much description as possible!

Amy reminded the teams on Monday morning that a change in thought process was needed if they were to meet the deadline of having a first prototype ready for the village visits, due to take place on 3rd to 5th August. She told them to choose their approach, their workshop and just start building! She set about outlining some case studies which she felt could help the participants in understanding the following six aspects that should inform each of their designs:

Design for Affordability

Design for Usability

Design for Sustainability

Design for Manufacturability

Design for Re-use

Design for Failure

Amy and Ben went through each of these aspects of appropriate technology design individually and meticulously, but it was the final one, design for failure, that Amy stressed as the most important. She said that understanding that your device will fail is crucial and after that it’s all about trying to figure out when it will fail first, how it will fail, and then figuring out the best and worst failure modes and then trying to plan and design for the former. For example, if a part fails that can only be fixed by a blacksmith, then it becomes difficult for the villagers to service the device themselves, and thus it can become redundant pretty quickly. Despite all of this advice, Amy pressed home the point that there is no fail safe approach in design, “there are no solutions, only trade offs”.

Radikha, of the kid Friendly latrine team, gets specific with her measurements

Cutting some metal for the Shea Oil team, at Suame magazine

The Shea team discuss the specifications of their design

Later in the week, Ela Ben-Ur followed on from Amy’s presentation, giving an interactive session on the importance of User Based Design. The session was based on up-skilling the teams in how to get constructive user feedback on their prototypes, ahead of their village visits later in the week. If designs are to be accepted by the customer, it is crucial that they have some input into the design process as nobody knows better than they the nuances behind the everyday problems they face in their lives. Ela experimented with the group in the different ways you can gather feedback (a tech fair, smaller sessions, individual interviews etc) and she could not stress enough how important is the process of setting the stage just right, introducing the project and the idea just enough, and then letting the users come the extra mile themselves, so they really understand it and have a stake in it. Most importantly, “get the prototype out of your own hands!”

This was followed by our final session from Paul Hudnut, as he instructed us to think “Who really wants this?”. Determining just who your final product is aimed at (Nurses, Health Clinic, UN, EHO, villagers etc) is crucial and should constantly inform the design process. Paul told us that it’s all very well inventing things, but if you don’t market it you become a collector, rather than a disseminator. Thinking about scale is another element which needs to be at the forefront of the design process, he said. To help the participants understand where he was coming from, Paul introduced the concept of a proto-venture.The rest of the week was thankfully spent in the workshops, actually building things!

Gago and Carla's gifts for Amy and IDDS

The groundnut team work on the mechanism for their device

Rajnish from Recycled Plastic Products with his Plastic heating iron

Hanging the sachets out to dry....

Water shortage!

The Chlorine Production team busy at work in the lab

The Small Scale Energy Storage team doing some experimenting on the 4th floor

A Guatemalan (Jose) teaches a Tibetan (Gago) how to speak Spanish
Jennifer, from the Small Energy Storage team, busy at work!

The Electric Carousel Generator team, work outside at Suame Magazine
Suprio and Laura, of the Chlorine Dosing team, discuss one of their prototypes
Joseph leads the Cassava team in a discussion about the usability of their device
The Agricultural machinery workshop men helping to construct the monstrous rice thresher

Welding some of the final parts together

Jess, of the Chlorine Production team, and Daniel, of the Shea Oil Extraction group, help each other out in the workshop

Jess feeds the troops as they attempt to meet their most important deadline yet!

Our bright, new, freshly silk screened IDDS t-shirts

1 comment:

Robert said...

Fantastic shirts - where can I get one ;-)

Looking forward to the group updates!