[from Afrigadget] Amy Smith (of MIT’s IDDS) somehow got a hold of a mic and madhouse has now ensued! Everyone has been split up by their birth month into groups. They are given 5 water bags (sachets) and told to solve the world’s greatest problems. 30 minutes later we get…

5 Bag challenge

January: The Sachet Kebab
Decreasing litter and polution. People can collect water sachets off the ground easily with a pole and spiked end. It can be placed along the roads, and a lot of trash can just be spiked on the tip of it.

February: Hydro Electric
Generate electricity by using the bags to create small turbines.

March: Light absorbent and heat absorbent bags
They also had a crazy idea of drinking the water, peeing in the bag and selling that to farmers for fertilizer… to much laughter…

April: Potting and a Wallet
Drink the water and make it empty. Cut the top off and put in soil and grow small plants. Take another bag and put a small hole in it for drip irrigation. Second idea: use the bag to put your money in for when it rains.

Read more at Afrigadget.com. Follow updates on Twitter.


KUMASI GHANA MAY 25 2009: Over 70 participants representing 21 countries meet in Ghana July 8th,
2009 to kick off the third annual International Development Design Summit (IDDS).

IDDS aims to produce innovative, affordable, scalable technologies to meet the very real needs of the 2.6
billion people earning less than $2-a-day. Participants receive a crash course in developing appropriate
technology and then break into small teams, each receiving a different design challenge to solve a specific
problem faced daily by people around the world. Unlike most academic conferences, this summit
emphasizes the development of prototypes, not just papers and proceedings. Unlike technology workshops, IDDS is about creative processes, as well as products.

IDDS 2009 uniquely embodies the spirit of co-creation by collaborating with local mechanics, entrepreneurs and potential end users.

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At various points, participants will travel to surrounding rural villages and interact closely with community partners. The aim is to develop the creative capacity within the communities themselves, enabling the members to become active creators of technology, rather than merely passive recipients.

The 2009 participant roster reflects diverse backgrounds and skills sets: a woman from Sierra Leone
teaching welding to girls, a Brazilian artist using industrial waste in her work, and a solar energy technician
from India, to name a few. By creating this global network, IDDS hopes to empower individuals and their
communities to tackle the tough problems that reside in the developing world.

IDDS is the brain child of Massachusetts Institute of Technology senior lecturer and MacArthur “Genius
Grant” award winner Amy Smith. The summit runs through August 12th, 2009. Finished prototypes will be
showcased at Maker Faire Africa, a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation and invention hosted by
AfriGadget in Accra, Ghana from August 14th-16th.


Ay Smith, Founder of D-Lab and the International Development Design Summit at MIT

Ay Smith, Founder of D-Lab and the International Development Design Summit at MIT

As part of its annual roster of Breakthrough Awards for “life-changing innovations,” Popular Mechanics magazine has awarded its top honors to MIT Senior Lecturer Amy B.

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Smith, creator of the D-Lab classes that foster clever low-tech solutions to pressing problems in developing nations.

Calling Smith “a visionary,” the magazine gave her its Breakthrough Leadership award, the top honor out of the 20 awards in its annual list. The magazine cited her as “an inspiration to students and volunteers who dedicate their time to improve the standard of living in Haiti, Ghana, India and other countries. She is leading a movement to tackle complex problems with simple technology.”

In addition to D-Lab, Smith runs the International Development Design Summit each summer, which brings dozens of people from around the world together for four weeks for intensive brainstorming and prototyping of solutions to local problems from different regions of the developing world. After being held at MIT for the last two years, next summer the summit will take place in Ghana, giving the participants more direct contact with the kinds of communities their inventions are intended to serve.

“It will be interactive in a way we haven’t been able to do” at MIT, says Smith, whose work is still sustained in part by a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” she received four years ago. For participants who come from industrialized countries, she said, the summit in Ghana will enable “people who haven’t had a chance to experience life in the developing world” to be immersed in that environment firsthand.

Even for those from other developing nations, she said, it’s a chance “for people from Tibet to see what life is like in Ghana,” for example. “People tend to lump the developing world together,” she said, but the problems and potential vary widely from one country to another.

Meanwhile, D-Lab itself continues to grow, having doubled in size over the last year, she says. And it has helped to inspire a variety of other classes and projects that embody Smith’s approach of addressing the basic, local needs of people around the world through small-scale engineering with simple tools and readily available materials.

“MIT students are incredibly lucky now,” she says. “If they wanted to be involved in this kind of development work every single semester they’re here, they could do that now. That didn’t used to be the case.”

The Popular Mechanics awards were presented at a banquet in New York on Oct. 15, with Smith as the keynote speaker.

[Props Amy! Snipped from MIT News]