objects cobbled together with bailing wire are being replaced in the developing world by ever smarter
technologies. What's driving the change? Engineers and inventors have actually
begun talking to those who deal directly with the bottom half of the world's
population and are gaining new insights into problems that can lead to
The challenges of life on the margins still involve access to
clean water, a reliable food supply and basic health care; energy to help with
agriculture, transportation and education; and shelter for safety, community
building and a home to provide some dignity.
We recently completed the first-ever Engineering and Humanity
week. A number of thought-provoking, ready-to-go technologies were showcased by
various organizations. Some were so interesting and relevant that I just have
to share them with you:
Bobble: a water bottle made of recycled plastic with
a carbon filter. The filter provides clean water that meets or exceeds the
standard that governs public and private drinking water for chlorine, taste and
odor reduction. A Bobble can deliver about 40 gallons of good water before
needing a new filter.
ReadySet: Want to start a business providing recharging services for cell phones or
radios? Then you need the ReadySet. The system allows you to draw power from a
bicycle generator, a solar panel or from the grid, and can charge just about
anything with any adaptor.
Adspecs: These new glasses are designed for youth
ages 12 to 18 and can be self-adjusted. Adspecs use next-generation
fluid-filled lenses that allow the wearer to tune the prescription to their own
eyes - helping millions of young people worldwide see clearly for the first
Rocket Stove: In-home stoves expose families to
dangerous levels of airborne carcinogens. Rocket Stoves are easily manufactured
in country and use only a fraction of the energy of other stove options.
Nokero Solar Light Bulb: Bright enough to read by, cook by, study by or to
perform household tasks, the Nokero solar light bulb is brighter than a
smartphone screen on its brightest setting and lasts about four hours on a full
charge. Nokero is primarily meant to provide a safe, clean alternative to the
fuel lanterns currently used by the 1.6 billion people worldwide who lack
reliable access to electricity. It is durable, rainproof and affordable enough
to have practical use to impoverished people around the world who still burn
dangerous and polluting kerosene lanterns.
GE ZeeWeed 1500: Even the big boys are getting into
the act. If you are looking for a village-sized, self-contained water
purification system, GE has drawn upon years of experience to develop a UF
Membrane water treatment system that is affordable and practical. The ZeeWeed
systems consistently outperform conventional filtration technology while
meeting or exceeding regulatory requirements, regardless of source water
quality. In fact, our student teams have used this technology in a
comprehensive design for a water kiosk in Africa.
This is just a small sampling of what is here today and yet
only a glimmer of what is to come. Let's compile
a list of ready-to-go ideas that are proven to perform in the harsh
reality of the developing world. Send your products/construction plans to me
and we will make them widely available for others to explore and use around the
world. A good working idea shouldn't just stay on the shelf.
Geoffrey C. Orsak is Dean of the SMU Lyle
School of Engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are the toys that inspired budding engineers to try out sublime designs, create miniature structures, and experiment with bizarre contraptions using sets that could be torn down and reconstructed over and over.
PowerStream is deploying the microgrid at its headquarters to demonstrate how people can generate and distribute their own energy and make their homes and businesses more sustainable through renewables.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.