Tools for Self-Directed Learning: Nationwide, the student-to-teacher ratio in Bangladesh is 63:1, among the worst in Asia, and 36% of Bangladeshi children never finish primary school. DtM's project partner, the Centre for Mass Education in Science (CMES), seeks to change these statistics. Students leave the five-year CMES program with the education, job skills and self-confidence necessary to become productive members of their local community. CMES is a UNESCO "partner for research," and over the last 27 years their work has had a significant impact on pedagogical methods across South Asia.
The goal of our collaboration is to enhance CMES's impact by enabling them to reach more students with fewer teaching resources. Our specific objective is to develop a low-cost, context-appropriate learning tool that will allow students to proceed with their studies as a supplement to, or even independent of, direct interaction with a teacher.
Smart Cards for Microcredit: Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank (Mann Deshi Bank) is a licensed cooperative bank in Maharashtra run “by and for women.” Founded in 1997 by Ashoka Fellow Chetna Gala Sinha, Mann Deshi Bank specializes in micro-loans as seed funding for women entrepreneurs in rural communities. Mann Deshi Bank has expanded its total assets by fifty times over the last nine years, and now serves 50,000 women through seven bank branches. Their goal is to expand to 250,000 clients over the next five years.
To grow at scale, the bank needs to improve the security, accuracy and efficiency of the system by which they track and disburse loans. Mann Deshi Bank seeks to apply smart card technology into its banking infrastructure, as a substitute for paper passbook and manual data entry. “Smart card” is a generic term for any pocket-sized card with embedded integrated circuits that allow for electronic data storage. DtM has partnered with Mann Deshi Bank to research and implement “smart card” technology to address these issues.
Nonelectric Infant Incubator: DtM student teams developed a prototype of a low-cost incubator that would run independent of electricity. The incubator heating element proposed used the chemical properties of phase change material to provide a passive thermoregulation system. The student design won the MIT Lemelson International Technology Award for 2002. See the team's Development by Design paper (PDF file) for more details.
Smart Canes for the Visually Impaired: A DtM student team developed of a "smart" cane, using optical sensors and the "blue dot cricket"--a microprocessor and controller developed at the MIT Media Lab--to provide visually impared users with additional range information from the cane tip.
Shelling Machines: tabletop or community-scale shelling machines would allow rural villages around the world to add value to locally-produced agricultural products. Available power sources to drive these machines include 5 hp gasoline engines and 15 hp diesel engines. DtM has developed prototypes for the following agricultural products: peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, palm nuts and shea nuts.
Manioc (Cassava) Peeling Machine: in the same vein as the shelling machine, DtM has worked on the development of tabletop or community-scale machines for peeling manioc (cassava) roots, a dietary staple in many regions of the developing world.
Condom Vending Machine: AIDS is a huge and growing problem, especially in developing countries. In conservative Muslim societies like Mali, young men are often put off from buying condoms due to the social stigma attached to premarital sex. DtM developed initial prototypes for a coin-operated, purely mechanical machine designed to provide an easy, anonymous alternative to buying condoms at the pharmacy or local boutique.
Photovoltaic Charge Controller Circuit: Photovoltaic (solar) cells represent a promising source of electricity for the thousands of rural communities not connected the the power grid. Imported components for PV circuits can be prohibitively expensive. DtM conducted an intial design study of a compact, simple, eight-amp charge controller made of locally available parts.
UV Water Purification: DtM student teams explored the development of an improved ultraviolet water purification system. The goal was to reduce cost, improve reliability and facilitate local maintenance.
Check out our 2012 Annual Report!
After a banner year in 2012 with projects in agriculture and newborn health, we look forward to conquering the next challenges in global health, pushing the boundaries of rapid prototyping as an affordable manufacturing technique for our designs, and setting the bar for design standards and practices to benefit developing world communities.
DtM's Elizabeth Johansen Profiled on Womenetics
Design that Matters' Director of Product Development, Elizabeth Johansen, was profiled for the online periodical, Womenetics.