D-Lab has a long history of inviting designers and innovators to spend time at D-Lab mentoring our students, working in our workshop, and interacting with the larger MIT community. 

Starting informally, the program began to take shape in 2010 when we hosted an Innovators Night. Since then, the series has hosted nine world inventors.



ROBERT SHIMAINGO - ZAMBIA - D-Lab Designer-in-Residence: 2014

Robert is an alum of the 2013 International Development Design Summit Zambia and widely regarded as one of the most gifted inventors in the country. He brings self-taught metal fabrication, machining and welding skills to his work.

His innovations include an original rope maker machine, a green charcoal kiln, and a vegetable chopper. His current major project, a water turbine, addresses the need for power and refrigeration along the Kfue river to facilitate the fish trade. The power generated by his turbine is intended for a refrigeration system that will enable fish caught locally to be stored and sold at the best price. 


ELIUS MUHIMBISE - UGANDA - D-Lab Designer-in-Residence (Education) 2014

Elius Muhimbise is a teacher at the Iruhura government primary school in Kabarole District, Uganda.

He does conservation work in his community by engaging students to organize waste clean-up efforts, test water quality, protect wildlife, and build fuel-efficient cook stoves in neighboring homes. Elius is part of the Kasiisi Project network of schools, the national representative for Let's Do It Uganda, and a Teacher-in-Residence with the D-Lab Youth Program.



JOSE "PILO" SANCHES - HONDURAS - D-Lab Designer-in-Residence 2013

Pilo is a skilled welder (including underwater welding) and tinkerer affiliated with the long-time D-Lab partner Fundación San Alonso Rodríguez in Tocoa, Colón, Honduras.

Pilo has been instrumental in supporting D-Lab trips to his country, assisting students in building towers for weather stations, windmills, rope pumps and pedal-powered cassava graters. He runs his own welding business, and in his free time is also a licensed soccer referee in the national league. He attended the International Development Design Summit at MIT in 2008.


KELVIN DOE "DJ FOCUS" - SIERRA LEONE - D-Lab Designer-in-Residence 2012

Kelvin was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1996. At age 10, he started scavenging for scrap electronics parts for his inventions and built a radio station for his community out of recycled materials, in addition to homemade batteries and a generator. Kelvin and his team were winners of Global Minimum's Innovate Salone 2012 -- the inaugural high school innovation challenge in Sierra Leone. Kelvin became the youngest ever "visiting practitioner" with the MIT International Development Initiative. At MIT, he presented his inventions to students in two D-Lab classes, engaged with community members, and participated in hands-on research at the Media Lab. 


SUPRIO DAS - INDIA - D-Lab Designer-in-Residence 2010

After working for more than 20 years as an electrical engineer , Suprio realized that life could be more meaningful and interesting than a scramble up the corporate ladder. He gave up his job and started his own business while volunteering with an NGO in villages around Kolkata. On a visit to the villages, it occurred to him that social work and engineering could be combined together to develop devices that could help the poor. The simple devices that he started designing brought him in touch with D-Lab at MIT and in addition to being invited four consecutive times to the International Development Design Summit in Boston, Ghana, and Colorado. Suprio is a 2014 D-Lab Scale-Ups fellow.


BERNARD KIWIA - TANZANIA - D-Lab Designer-in-Residence 2010

Bernard Kiwia ~ Tanzania ~ leads all of Global Cycle Solutions R&D and supervises the manufacture of products both locally and abroad.

Having attended the first annual International Development Design Summit at MIT in 2007, he then became a prolific inventor, with a pedal-powered hacksaw, a pedal-powered drill press, and his bicycle-powered cell phone charger, which Global Cycle Solutions is now helping him bring to market. 


RALF HOTCHKISS - US - D-Lab Designer-in-Residence 2010, 2016

Ralf is a wheelchair-rider, engineer, inventor who co-founded Whirlwind Wheelchair International. With over 35 years as a wheelchair-designer, builder and trainer, he won a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and has been a recipient of countless other honors and awards.

He has experience working in 42 countries, teaching people who need wheelchairs how to build and maintain them for themselves, and is an advisory board member of Women Pushing Forward. 

Read more an extended Frontline interview with Ralf here.


FATUMA ACUN - UGANDA - D-Lab Designer-in-Residence 2010

Fatuma was the first woman in Africa to be trained as a wheelchair technologist. Fatuma, who contracted polio as a child, uses a wheelchair herself and runs the non-profit MADE, which stands for Mobility Appliances by Disabled Women Entrepreneurs. Fatuma also directs the Pan-African Wheelchair Association.


HARISH HANDE - INDIA - D-Lab Designer-in-Residence 2010

Harish co-founded and directs SELCO Solar, a social venture that promotes sustainable technologies in rural India. He earned his PhD from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, in Energy Engineering, specializing in Solar Energy for Developing Countries. He is an engineering graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, one of India’s most prestigious technical universities. SELCO has won two Ashden Awards and Harish has been named an Ashoka Fellow, Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year, and Fellow of the World Economic Forum.