Change By Design

"What we understand we are better equipped to change"

Youth TIER Team Designs for Humanity

Development of the conversation around humanitarian efforts and engineering: discussions from a high school-aged group of Lab-users

In introducing a group of students who regularly intern at the Fab Lab to concepts related to humanitarian assistance, I never anticipated the trouble I would cause us all. I am grateful for this trouble, as in signifies the students’ genuine desire to learn… but they have taken the task of designing for human benefit so seriously that I am having to be sure and keep up at this point.

They are genuinely concerned about their worlds, and want to make a difference, but are each stricken by a common problem: how to do something that truly makes an impact within a system that can seem so settled in its ways and impossible to fundamentally change.

I have asked the students to act as a ‘think tank’ (we’re almost there), and explore topics for discussion that they research and then present to each other in order to inform their talks.

Recently I have assigned them the task of researching topics related to their concerns and leading a joint discussion. Some of the areas of research included information by the following:

Amy Smith of MIT’s TED Talk regarding her work with designing and engineering solutions for third-world countries

Project H Design, and related discussions by its founder, Emily Pilloton on designing devices for social change.

The discussion that they have been engaging in and are now leading has moments of extreme liveliness, when ideas are coming together and they are excited about the prospects of their concepts. They also have experienced moments of lull, when they seem to feel as though they cannot get past the larger overarching elements that they are discovering play a foundational role in the social systems of the people of the world. The following are excerpts from their blog postings, and within this same folder is a video clip comprised of one of their discussions.

These can also be seen at:
Humanitarian Efforts in Engineering
Submitted by benjamin on Thu, 2009-05-14 10:43.

Amy Smith, an M.I.T graduate, has been working over the course of the past several years to develop a cleaner and more efficient way to produce heat in Haiti, due to the logging of 98% of the country’s trees. Haiti’s inhabitants use wood charcoal as the primary source of heat for warmth and cooking, further adding to the destruction of their environment. Amy, in correspondence with M.I.T, has been developing a means to create a cleaner and longer burning charcoal, as to preserve what remains of the Haitian forests. By putting “bagas,” a waste by product from extracting sugar from sugar cane, into a 55 gallon kiln and removing air at some point in the process, a fine powder is produced. Then cassava, a plant native to Haiti, can be pounded into paste and be used to mix the baga dust to create burnable briquettes.

In India, cow dung was used as the primary source of heat, thus producing a large amount of smoke. It was found that wheat straw, coupled with cow dung as a binding substance, burned cleaner than wood charcoal, but had a tendency to crumble. However, it was found that by compressing these briquettes, these briquettes burned both cleaner and longer than wood charcoal.

By far, the most effective of all these substances is corn cob charcoal. They don’t require compression and come in the appropriate size. The money used by women to buy standard, unclean cooking oil can now be used for education for them and their children, thus having economically, environmentally and health based benefits.


What Should Be Done About Poverty
Submitted by bashir on Thu, 2009-05-14 10:15.

For the past few days the fab lab interns have been doing presentations on each of their projects and seeing how each project connects to one another. During my project about the irregular settlements in Tijuana, I and the interns had engaged in a deep conversation discussing whether providing a large amount of aid(money) to poor people is really benefiting them or is it just creating dependency. I felt that giving too much aid to a people would definitely cause them to be dependent and they would just think that they wouldn’t have to work hard to get themselves out of situations because they would be so reliant on the aid from other people. My mentor Katie Rast decided to have us explore more on this project and she found an author by the name of Dambisa Moyo. Dambisa is an author of a book that explains her perspective and ideas about what the aid is doing to the people in Africa. Form the statistics that she gathered she had came to a conclusion that the more aid that is being given to Africa is creating more poverty. The reason was for various reasons but one of the main reasons was that the governments in Africa were very corrupt and they were stealing the money and not getting it to the people. After gathering information from her point of view and our point of views about that situation we decided to come up with the best possible solutions for Africa. We couldn’t really come up with a lot of solutions because the situation in Africa is so complicated that a solution to one problem would only cause another problem. My opinion was that in order for Africa to come out of poverty they would need someone to come in and give them a structure on how to run a nation because Africa has the resources. Also there was an idea that they should find a way to get the money to the small businesses in Africa and have them expand and get the economy going. A lot of different ideas and opinions were brought up and discussed in this conversation that we had but Africa is in such a complicated situation that it was hard for us to come up with one solution.


random ideas
Submitted by azriahrox on Thu, 2009-05-14 10:01.

so today while i was listening to the head of H design talk i had a few ideas

the first was

a portable cooking system based on a very durable rubber, so my idea was
we could use this plastic make a kinda furnace design that is very portable with a metal tray and smoke filtration i have a diagram i shall upload later

other ideas

use compression of shrubbery and paper to make coal like burning substance for portable cooker

use high level magnification to light stoves in areas like Africa

use 2 irons and a solar panel and a metal peice to make a $24 stove top that is portable and can be broken down

also add a filter to the hippo roller


africa notes
Submitted by azriahrox on Tue, 2009-05-12 11:20.

culture, communication, money, religion are what devide people (kayla)

fear devides people and unite africa under a union – Azriah ROX

money seperates people, depend on a society and how things are set up.

social stats money communication, fear of the unkown -Ben

power divides people

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Posted in Front page and Uncategorized by Katie on July 9th, 2009 at 4:52 am.

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