Three programs where students conceive products for the world’s poor
To earn this 18-credit minor, CSM students take engineering classes focused on solving humanitarian challenges, including groundwater mapping and sustainable energy systems. The program began partly in response to industry demand for engineers with cultural awareness. During their senior year, they have the opportunity to participate in humanitarian design projects overseas or close to home, such as on Native American reservations. One recent project found a way to generate electricity in rural villages in Ecuador using parts that could be manufactured and maintained by the villagers. Another team developed a mobile bicycle pump in Ghana to help farmers get water for irrigation.
Penn State’s program focuses not only on creating products but employment as well. In a current project in Kenya, students work with citizens to make biodiesel from local crops and use the fuel to power a low-cost portable generator (also designed in the program) to produce electricity for the village. Surplus fuel will be sold to outside markets to provide a steady source of income for the community.
Students here take workshops ranging from welding and plastics- and metal-forming to sewing and finance before heading to countries like Nepal, India and Myanmar to identify a local problem they can engineer a solution to. Take the baby incubator designed by the 2007 student team, for example. It’s aimed at the 20 million premature and low-birth-weight infants born every year in remote locations and costs just $25 (standard hospital incubators cost $20,000). Now being developed by a spin-off company called Embrace, the incubator looks like a sleeping bag but contains a sealed pouch filled with a material that can regulate body temperature without using power or moving parts. Another company, D.light Design, which grew out of a 2006 Stanford team, is replacing polluting kerosene lanterns with solar LED lamps for the 1.6 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to electricity.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.