Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Great minds from MIT, Caltech and Olin College use technology to help the poor

When I attended a full-day conference at MIT in Boston this past July it was a great experience. MIT is known for amazing research projects, IT developments and great minds that graduate to become leaders in their fields (even a few Nobel Peace Prize winners).

In a world where there is a new tech release everyday for things we want (believe me my household could do without 5 mp3 players....there are only 2 of us). Gadgets appear on the market to make our lives easier....motorized tools that peel our apples for us or light up our bathroom sinks when we move our hands under the water tap....what is driving technology? How many gadgets does a person need?

MIT senior lecturer Amy Smith has pulled together the first summit called International Development Design Summit (IDDS) "to build technologies that can improve the lives of the world’s poorest people." With MIT, Caltech and Olin College the first summit brought together 50 students, faculty and community partners from 16 countries that were "divided into teams to design technologies that address problems in different sectors including energy, agriculture, water, and health" during the week long summit.

Working in teams and guided by sector specialists and guest speakers the teams work on their solutions and present their designs at the end of the week.

The following projects were displayed at the final presentation (see article for more info):

  • An off-grid refrigeration system that uses evaporative cooling methods,
  • A microbial fuel cell that uses microbes in their natural environments to generate electricity,
  • A biodigester slurry separation system to lessen the burden of water collection,
  • A low-cost greenhouse made from recycled materials,
  • A low-cost water testing kit,
  • A pedal-powered hammer mill to produce flour from grains,
  • A system that combines the collection, transport, disinfection and delivery of drinking water,
  • A low-cost modular water filtration unit,
  • A health tracking system that uses Radio Frequency Identification, and
  • An improved cook stove that reduces smoke production built with locally available materials.

IDDS brought together innovative minds to deal with issues of real human needs!


Have a discussion with your students. What technology items do they have that they couldn't live without? Cellphone, mp3 player, computer?????

How can technology be used to address real human needs!

How can technology make a difference when you don't even have money to buy the basic needs such as food and shelter?

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