D-Lab Development

With help of IDI and UROP, students return to Avani

Elliot Avila (MechE '14) writes about his return to India over the summer to continue work with Avani
Over the summer of 2012, a team of current and former D-lab students – Nathan Landman (Bio Engineering '15), Kristin Kagetsu (MechE '12), and myself – travelled together to work with Avani Kumaon in the mountainous regions of northern India. Avani works to promote sustainable farm and artisan-based livelihood opportunities in the remote reaches of the Himalayas and has been a partner of D-lab for several years, sending staff members to IDDS and collaborating with teams of students on various projects. Kristin and I had both visited Avani over IAP 2012 as part of the India team from D-Lab: Development. With the support of D-lab, the UROP office, and the International Development Initiative at MIT, we were able to travel back with the hopes of making progress on the projects that we had started over the course of the year.
The trip was quite the experience for each of us. We ate great food, met amazing people and experienced their unique culture, and made satisfying headway on our projects. I had the opportunity to redesign a dryer that I had worked on over IAP and we used it to make the sun-dried tomatoes that topped the very first Avani pizza! And we all got a chance to dance, sing songs, and tell stories at Avani's new montessori school. Trust me when I say that it was harder than it sounds, but also extremely rewarding and fun.
Our biggest project though was our continuing work with Avani to develop a new product – artisanal, natural-dye crayons. The crayons are made with beeswax and natural pigments derived from various plants that are found naturally in the hills surrounding Avani, and work on the crayons had continued beyond IAP to become a D-Lab: Design project in Spring 2012. We spent our time perfecting the recipes to create vibrant, smooth colors and figuring out an environmentally friendly manufacturing process to mass-produce the crayons. In Boston, we’ve attended workshops to develop a business strategy and are continuing to work with Avani, and other former D-lab students, to try and bring the product to the marketplace. We're in the process of talking to retailers, so don’t be surprised if you see stores selling Avani-made crayons in the upcoming year!
Click here for more information on how the International Development Initiative supports ID at MIT
Click here to view a short documentary (2007) on the work of Avani in northern India

Solar Lighting Improvements

Class-Research-Fieldwork: 
150 Projects Tags: 
Status: 
Reviewed
A solar lighting system is a green alternative to grid electricity for lighting a house. At AVANI, solar lighting systems are locally made for people around the area to also provide job opportunities for people as solar technicians. D-Lab students designed a new circuit to reduce the price and increase the lanterns' efficiency.
Uttrakhand

Treadle Pump Testing

Class-Research-Fieldwork: 
Status: 
Reviewed
Irrigation technologies remain out of reach for most subsistence farmers; hand irrigation is time consuming, wasteful or often impractical. Our team worked with rural farmers to build and test a low-cost treadle pump developed by International Development Enterprises (IDE) Ghana.
Gomboi and Dwere

Rocker Water Pump Testing

Class-Research-Fieldwork: 
Status: 
Reviewed
Irrigation technologies remain out of reach for most subsistence farmers and hand irrigation is time consuming, wasteful or often impractical. Our team worked with rural farmers to build and test a cement rocker water pump developed by the Full Belly Project.
Gomboi and Dwere

Rope Pump Demonstration

Class-Research-Fieldwork: 
Status: 
Reviewed
People in Gomboi and Dwere do not have a source of safe drinking water; they currently walk a quarter mile to a river that tests indicate is highly contaminated with bacteria. In working with the community to develop a plan to build and finance a well/pump installation, we demonstrated how rope pumps work using modified bicycle parts.
Gomboi and Dwere

Dwere River Crossing

Class-Research-Fieldwork: 
Status: 
Reviewed
The women of Dwere sell clay to earn money for medicine, clothing and school fees. They carry loads of up to 100 lbs on their heads across a river, which can be treacherous. During the rainy season, the river is too high to cross, which limits their earnings. D-Lab is working with the community to construct a low-cost foot bridge.
Dwere

Low-Cost Groundnut Sheller

Class-Research-Fieldwork: 
Status: 
Reviewed
Groundnuts are a staple food, but shelling nuts by hand is both time consuming and tedious. While there are several low-cost machines that can speed this process up, these devices can require unavailable parts, expensive materials or a high skill level to make. This new design is fast, easy to assemble, and costs less than $7 USD.
New Longoro

Educational Workshops on Deforestation

Class-Research-Fieldwork: 
150 Projects Tags: 
Status: 
Reviewed
The 2011 D-Lab Rwanda team ran hands-on educational workshops on topics of importance to the local community, such as deforestation. As part of this class, students and community members planted trees together.
Butare

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