Thursday, July 31, 2008

IDDS (!)

The Charcoal Crushing group takes a late afternoon break for ice cream, cookies and conversation.

Sumit attempts to fly around D-Lab like a chicken...

Sunil gets serious by putting a lab coat on.

Charcoal Crushers casting concrete rollers.

Preview of the concrete rollers variations.

IDDS is full of too much stuff to do. So much knowledge to take in. More interesting people than I have time to get to know! Today we had a presentation by Kurt Kornbluth that was a little bit about the design process, a little bit about his work at UC Davis, and lot of spilled water everywhere. The projects he presented on lighting and energy storage were awesome enough to get me thinking I might have to work on a Masters at UC Davis to try and be part of them. Four tips for design; build often and early, quantify results, will it pay for itself, and 'sure, you'll sell a million, but how are you going to do that?' 

The middle of the day had presentation by Kate Lessard of Foundation Relations at MIT. She informed participants about the different avenues to pursue for funding projects and went into detail about how to work with Foundations for funding charitable organizations. Her basic list went something like this:
  1. What problem will you solve?
  2. Who will be served?
  3. How many people will be served?
  4. Why now?
  5. How will you measure impact?
  6. How will you sustain the project (what will happen in the long run)?
  7. What is your budget?
Something that wasn't on the list, that is very relevant though, is that it is good to develop a relationship with the Foundation you're working with. This helps to make sure both yours and the Foundations goals are aligned, and assist to maximize the projects potential.

Finally, in the evening, there was a presentation by TIE Boston, Social Entrepreneur division on Global Crisis for Water and Sanitation. It had panel speakers from Coca Cola, Oxfam and an MIT professor, and was moderated by Lotika Paintal. I found Lotika's presentation on her newly formed venture, Water Centric to be most interesting.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

IDDS Bikes Not Bombs

Wednesday was a work day for IDDS participants, so we could get our hands dirty building prototypes and whatever else needed to get done. We also got to visit Bikes Not Bombs for a presentation and potluck dinner. This organization collects old bicycles and uses them as an alternative to destruction as a form of foreign policy. Shaibu, one of the IDDS participants, presented the Global Alliance for Africa and the work thats being done in his home country of Tanzania. Carlos from Maya Pedal presented the amazingly crafted work he's been doing in Guatemala.

Suprio working on the Human Power Generation project.

Some quality craftsmanship work by Joshua, for our group's new Charcoal Grinder.

Inside of a expanded steel lined PVC pipe, this is a mold for casting a concrete grinder.

Welding some of the parts for the Charcoal Crusher.

Bernard doesn't need a mask when welding... or gloves.

Thalia presenting one of the neatly organized tool walls at Bikes Not Bombs.

Laura Stupin doing a short introduction of IDDS at Bikes Not Bombs.

Bernard and Shaibu happily fielding questions about their work in Tanzania.

Carlos presenting his finely crafted work at Maya Pedal.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

IDDS Charcoal Burn

As long as we're having a fire, we might as well have some s'mores.

Vegetarian Sausage Alien!

Amy Smith pioneers egg on a skewer.

It worked! And tasted great!

Sorting out and weighing carbonized corn cobs is a dirty job.

The Charcoal Crushing group I am working in needed more charcoal to crush, so we woke up early this morning to do an 8am burn [I'll have to explain the process later]. The day was mostly a work day, and we got a lot accomplished in preparing for design modifications. Also of note was a luncheon hosted by MIT PSC (Public Service Center), where they had organizers act as facilitators to get feedback from participants on how PSC might improve in the future. From supporting students going abroad, to what students should expect to put in and get out of such endeavors. It resulted in some very good conversation. The group I was in started talking about the need for design and skills of students to be applied locally as well as abroad (and indeed, much of what MIT PSC does is in the local Cambridge area). We did agree on the catalytic effect of students going abroad, the spark it sets off in both the student and visiting community that we as individuals have power to make change. 

There was also a wonderful dinner where participants shared photos, artifacts, stories and jokes from their cultures. It was a good way to hear from people who I haven't had the chance to talk to on a more individual basis. In combination with the lunch earlier in the day, it reminded me of the value IDDS has in being a month long summit to allow individuals of different backgrounds to really get to know each other (and even this is just a glimpse).

Grudge match before a late night of ultimate frisbee.

Monday, July 28, 2008

IDDS Humdinger

Today's lecture started off on some final design considerations participants should consider for our projects. It was Design for Affordability, Manufacturability, Reuse and Failure. This was demonstrated with $3 Drip Irrigation System by Paul Polak, Kurt Kornbluth showed us a low cost wheel chair, and Amy Smith showed us images of road side workshops in Guatemala.

The Charcoal Crushing group that I'm with got to talk to the group at MIT that has been in charge of developing the concepts for Corn Cob charcoal today. The meeting was informing, and gave us a good set of solid parameters to aim for. Here is our updated charcoal crusher:

There are a series of minor tweaks that now need to be made, the ground charcoal results are very promising though. The person with the microphone, who's name I didn't get, is from NPR, possibly doing a story on IDDS. I will find out her name and show, as I need to send her images and videos. Sorry for not knowing now.

That wasn't all though, we had an amazing lecture/demonstration by Shawn Fayne of Humdinger Wind Technology. He talked to us about Confluent Technology, and showed us examples with SODIS Bags and Aeroelastic Flutter Technology.  The small scale wind power technology Humdinger is working on is awesome. I can't wait to go home and build my own Windbelt generator.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

IDDS Random

Spent most of the day working in the lab on a Charcoal Crusher. While there though, Amy Smith showed Jessica and I a soda can stove. Which was amazing! And now a video of the Charcoal Crusher the group I'm in has been working on here at the summit.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

IDDS Guest Speakers

Thursday was really packed, with a follow up lecture by Paul Hudnut. There was also a presentation by Ruth Mufute, of Africare. One of the most interesting things she said, was in response to a question about how do husbands feel about women empowerment in Africa. She said she still respects the traditions of her culture, even though she may fly to America, and give lectures, she'll still show respect towards her in-laws by bowing down when she meets them. There was something in the manner she related this to us that was very powerful.

Harish Hande, of Selco, talked about his experience from providing solar lighting for people in India. And now his company is moving into energy services, and the different ways they can provide those for customers who have previously been disregarded. Among his key points; barriers are functions of human resources, not technology; money is best put towards services and letting word of mouth speak for itself, over unreliable marketing; increasing production doesn't increase income, creating market linkages makes a difference, and finally answer a real customer need, sub par answers will only last for so long.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

IDDS Potluck

Paul Hudnut, of Colorado State University and Envirofit, talked to the participants about designing for dissemination. Distilled to the simplest form, people have to ask 1) what sucks? and 2) what are you going to do about it? We need to start viewing problems as opportunities. It was a good talk in all, and I really respect what he's done with Envirofit.

The IDDS Potluck later that night was massive. People running from dorm to dorm looking for spatula's! Chopping onions with butter knives and looking for extra canola oil. There was food from Zambia, Tanzania (mmm red bean soup), Malawi (have to get the recipe), Guatemalan deserts, English scones, India, Mexico... and much more.

Deepa slicing, I mean stabbing stabbing some onions.

Zambians (and Jessica) making some N-shima.

Guatemalan deserts (plantain with a mole like paste inside).

Charcoal Biscuits (a bit gritty, and sweeter than you'd expect).

Sumit and his Mango Lassi concoction (it went fast).

A view of the table setting.

Another view of one of the table spreads.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

IDDS Experimentation

Most of today was spent working in groups. We were briefed at the beginning of the day on various means of mock-ups, ranging from chip board, to foam core, to actual materials for user test feasibility. Since I don't have much time for words, I'll let some of the videos and and pictures speak for themselves. 

Hand rolling over the charcoal cobs.

We need to crush this much charcoal in a minute to be successful.

I just found this use of the laptop as piano notes far to interesting to pass up the documentation opportunity.

We were lucky enough to be invited to Design Continuum for dinner, presentations and a small tour. It was a bit odd to go from the projects at IDDS to see some of the work at Design Continuum. They say they are focused on human behavior and client success, and made a push towards sustainability, see their 2007 Footprint. I have mixed feelings about the place, I'll follow up on this post-IDDS.

Monday, July 21, 2008

IDDS Concept Selection, Empty Boxes and Grocery Shopping

Amy and Ben performing an example of selling a product based its features, in an exercise to help groups better understand what they are designing.

Free Books, I can't wait to read The Power of Unreasonable People!

Serious and unsuspecting shoppers.

They're always after me lucky charms!

Zambians discussing what they're going to make.

The chaotic grouping at the communal checkout stand!

Don't forget Niall's blog

Sunday, July 20, 2008

IDDS Bike to Walden Pond

The Sunday bike trip to Walden Pond was wonderful. Going down the Minute Man path was scenic and beautiful. Upon finally reaching Walden Pond, we were greeted with a sight I did not think to imagine. A serene fresh water pond that was the perfect temperature for a post bike ride swim. The thunderstorm in the middle of the swim was a more than welcome addition that heightened the experience.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

IDDS at Harbor Islands

View from Spectacle Island of Boston.

Jai looking serious on the ride over to Spectacle Island.

The IDDS organizers have taken it upon themselves to organize events for the participants to do over the weekends, to allow us to take in the sights of Boston. The first event was Spectacle Island, located in the harbor. It was an adventurous subway + ferry ride to get to the beach.

Friday, July 18, 2008

IDDS Idea Generation

Today we talked about Idea Generation. Ben Linder talked about different ways to capture ideas, from Brainstorming and Brainwriting to Bissociation and Grouping. He used rules and process tips from Stanford (anyone remember the IDEO ABC Shopping Cart?). Of course, we broke up into groups after this, and worked on capturing ideas. I have some video, and the weekend will be opportune to upload it after I dissect it.

Later in the day Ben Linder lectured the participants on Thumbnail Sketches and Gallery Sketches. A diagram is best here, some quick text description is a large sketch on an image, with a title, and simple labels so that the image communicates an idea with a quick view of it. After all the groups met and worked on their Gallery Sketches, we came back to 32-155 (an auditorium in the Strata Building, the one we've ben in all along, and I have now remembered) and presented them to the larger group for comments and questions. It was fun to see what everyone had come with, most have remained quite open, and had a good range of ideas.

After all this, the Charcoal Crushers (the group I'm in for the main project of the summit) went out to test some ideas on how to crush charcoal. It's messy job I'll say that. After only a minute or two of working with it, I quickly understood many of the problems we were facing.

IDDS then had a BBQ in the quad outside the Student Center (don't remember the name). It was fun, we sat around and talked with each other. Some of my conversations were on what my school was like, what did I plan to do after I graduated and how being from a big city (regardless of location) can bring closer to other people from big cities.

Finally, there was an informal international dance session on the fourth floor of Burton Conner (our dorm at MIT). It ranged from Brasilian, Honudrian to Indian dancing. And when it got too hot, Liz brought around some ice pops! Phew!

Bonus, Niall (one of the organizers) has been keeping an IDDS blog at

Thursday, July 17, 2008

IDDS Charcoal Demonstration

The focus of today's lecture was Problem Framing and Stakeholder Identification. Problem Framing can be in the form of Progressive Abstraction and/or Reframing. Progressive Abstraction goes from high level (broad) concepts to specific details. Reframing has a few ways to think about it, we were told to consider Denial (the problem isn't x, its y) and Reversal (do the opposite). We then broke off into our groups to work on this. The goal is develop a range of possible approaches to the project. How we frame the problem, will influence what is necessary to solve it.

Stakeholder Identification is a useful tool, looking at Beneficiaries, Competitors and Funders. A few considerations for this step are stakeholder investment, interest, influence and participation strategy. 

The participant presentations for today were Engineers Without Boarders UK, Hayley Sharp and Thalia Konaris. It is similar, and different to ESF Brasil. For myself, the most interesting thing was the list of projects available on the website that students are working on. This seems like a good space to go to find inspiration when one doesn't know what projects to work on.

David Sokal presented an idea to turn old automotive tires into bikeways in North Carolina. The reasoning behind this is because the state has stopped funding their construction (I think). He doesn't wan't to regrind the tires, and is cutting them open flat, and trying to hold them together. A straight forward, yet still difficult challenge.

Derek Lomas presented a series of ideas from his MFA studies at UC San Diego. His overall message is the need for people to address the state of technology and culture. One subheading of this is the use of technology to advocate social change. It's a broad subject, that I see having a lot of potential (not all of it commercial, yet).

Lamine Diakite, president of the Red Cross committee in Guinea Conakay, talked about Moringa as a solution to malnutrition in the area, and over Africa. He talked about the use of Solar Dehydrators to help preserve the nutrient content while drying the leaves of the tree. Also his desire to spread knowledge about this multifaceted plant. His call to help was for another organization to help in someway spread this knowledge and application of the Moringa plant.

Finally, there was a demonstration of converting corn cobbs to carbonized briquettes.  Amy Smith took us out to the quad and we burned some dried cobbs in a not so elaborate, not so simple process.

Bonus after that, Suprio gave me a pot made out of Jute rope, that is biodegradable and inexpensive! I can't wait to bring it back to the CMTEL at Art Center. Also, to give it to an illustration friend to do some fantastic graphics all over this.

Bonus bonus, going to the Thirsty Ear with the IDDS members and singing karaoke!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

IDDS Team Building

The day started with discussion on conference logistics. Then we started talking about the list of proposed projects. People asked questions for clarification and elaboration on the projects. Which didn't help me at all, because the more questions people asked, the more all the projects seemed interesting! We broke up into groups and talked about What Makes a Good Project. We came to conclusions such as consideration of time, scalability, scope of project. The group I was in decided the most important aspects were personal passion and experience, thinking about how we can grow personally and contribute.

To that, I am now working on a Charcoal Crusher. Which I will elaborate on more as my group discusses problem framing and stakeholder analysis.

The rest of the afternoon was spent doing team building exercises. Telling other members the story of our names, and working on constructing simple structures together. I got video of my groups name explanation, and will post it when I get their consent. The final exercise was to find a place to go and have dinner together, and discuss the project (there was another challenge built in there, which I don't want to spoil for future participants). Before the dinner, we got a tour of the MIT Libraries. Which was pretty amazing, I just wish I had more time to use it for research on biomimicry, materials and a list of other geek-out-able topics.

The night ended with a lecture by Anil K Gupta of Honeybee Networks ( The overall goal of his venture is to reward indigenous creativity and innovation. To often these inventors don't realize the power (scope) of the ideas and solutions they've created. He wanted to pay back the people who's knowledge he used to only document.

A person is at their best when they are Learning, Living and Loving. Mr. Gupta has a great spirit and his heart is in this from hearing him speak. His closing remarks; "Creativity counts, Knowledge matters, Innovation transforms, Incentives inspire."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Today stared off by a presentation by Crossman Hormenoo on shop safety, and a slideshow of his shop in Ghana. Then we broke up into groups and did hands on workshops based around skill set's individuals were interested in. I ended up in a workshop that had sheet metal bending, water jet cutting, riveting, and spot welding as the main skills. The goal was to duplicate what a metal smith in Peru had done (in a day) to make a Corn Dekerneler out of local materials rather than an injection molded part. [photos as soon as I get them to upload, having problems]

Some of the people from IDDS last year, who are not Organizers of the event, shared with us some presentations of the work they have done since then. Miguel Chaves shared with the group information on Engineers Without Borders in Brazil. He wants to raise the level of communities, while also getting participants (both in and outside the community) to learn from the experience. Tombo Banda presented a pedal powered cassava rapser that she was inspired to work on after seeing pedal power in IDDS 2007.

The day ended with a trip a local bar, where Jessica's (one of the IDDS participants) friend's band was playing. They did a Melodica, which makes them cool in my book. There was also lots of good conversation going between participants, which is what this is event is all about. How can Cal Tech and Art Center collaborate more, and bring a business school in the mix for a triumvirate of thought and execution? What is the allure of math, and how is it the fine art of scientific world? What are the lives like of different classes of Guatemalan people?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Day One

Today started at 7:30am and didn't end until 11:34pm. There was breakfast, registration, and introduction by Amy Smith about what IDDS is about. The vision of IDDS is have a conference where people come away with prototypes, and not just proceedings. We were lucky enough to have Paul Polak speak to us today, who recently published Out of Poverty. He also spoke about experience with the Treadle Pump, myths of poverty eradication and four design challenges ready for revolution. If there was one thing to take away from him, its that charity is not the way out of poverty. The first world can subsidize the creation of markets, they have to sustain themselves though, or they won't work in the developing world.

Also, Paul Polak's 12 steps to Practical Problem Solving:
  1. Go to where the action is.
  2. Talk to the people with the problem, and listen to them.
  3. Learn everything you can about the specific context.
  4. Think and act big.
  5. Think like a child (my favorite).
  6. See and do the obvious.
  7. Don't reinvent things.
  8. Design to critical price targets.
  9. Design to measurable improvement (I interpret as scalability).
  10. Work to practical three years plans.
  11. Keep learning from your customers.
  12. Stay positive, don't be distracted by what other people think.
We were then briefed on what to expect, which I will summarize as lots of hands on workshops, and team work. We then broke into groups (the group I was in named ourselves Fontomfrom, it is a drum in Ghana, that is used to signal people), had lunch, walked around MIT, and followed that up with a Design Activity.  

After all that, Ben (don't know his last name, will find out) shared with the IDDS Participants a brief on the Design Process, using his example on working on De-mining equipment in Cambodia (have to double check that). Finally, Amy Smith shared with us demonstrations of her Charcoal Project and Corn Sheller projects. We ended the day at a local Chinese restaurant, where Oswee told me about his work as an Animal Science instructor. Apparently, if you want chickens to lay more eggs, you need to expose them to more sunlight (16 hours is optimal). The day still wasn't over, a group of us ended by playing soccer into the late hours.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

IDDS Arrival

Arrived at Boston Airport at 10:30pm, and met Danny (one of the organizers, and graduate of MIT), Jessica (Civil Engineering Major at UC Berkeley, just back from SE Asia, where she worked on a water project in Cambodia), Steven (Chemical Engineering Major at Cambridge, originally from Manchester) and one other organizer, who's name I will put right here when I remember (she is a former graduate of MIT also, getting a medical degree in Texas).

I got a room in one of the dorms, on the 4th floor, overlooking the river. Some of the flat mates have written their names and country of origin on their doors, so I did the same. I haven't met any of them yet, because I arrived so late. Photos to follow, after some sleep.

7:30am breakfast tomorrow, er, today, because its 2am.