MIT Alumni on Why They Support D-Lab in the MIT Giving Day Challenge

This Pi Day, March 14, 2017, friends of MIT from around the globe will join together to take on the university’s first-ever 24-Hour Giving Day Challenge.

If 1,500 people make a gift to MIT in just 24 hours, it will unlock a $150,000 matching gift from a generous, anonymous donor.

D-Lab is proud to be a participating partner in Giving Day, and we hope you’ll consider making a gift to support D-Lab’s work designing for a more equitable world.

 Here is what some of our alumni say about why they support D-Lab’s work:

“I loved my projects at MIT, but felt that a lot of resources went to building the next frontier of technology. D-Lab was one of the few programs that focused on innovative, simple solutions for real needs of 80 percent of the world's population living on less than $2.50 a day. This has been a huge inspiration for how I want to dedicate my time in the future.”

—   Caroline Hane-Weijman, Pivotal Labs Product Manager, (Mechanical Engineering, '11)

“Diversity. Inclusion. Community. Agency. Empowerment. Excellence. To me, this is the MIT ethos as embodied by the work that D-Lab does through the programs I know and love.”

—    Ticora V. Jones, Division Chief of the USAID Higher Education Solutions Network, (Material Science & Engineering, '00)

“D-Lab provided me a framework to assess the challenges facing those in the developing world and collaborate on solutions. I rely on this knowledge frequently in my work at edX where we work to provide access to higher education to everyone. I support D-Lab because I feel we at MIT have a duty to create a better world and society for our fellow citizens. D-Lab, and its numerous alumni, help bring the world to MIT, and MIT to the world.”

—    Clinton Blackburn, Senior Software Engineer at edX, (Computer Science, '08)

“Support D-Lab today so that some of the nation’s best and brightest at MIT will bend towards service and co-creation. But also support (Founding Director) Amy Smith because in her work at MIT, she also fuels this movement in education for institutional and academic partners all over the US and all over the world. When you contribute to something like D-Lab, you know the money is well-spent and the effect is real - and is reaching far beyond the confines of Cambridge.”

—    Nadeem Mazen, Cambridge, MA City Council Member, (Biological Engineering, '06)

“Working with D-Lab has been a very fulfilling and invigorating way for me to stay in touch with MIT. The students have a true sense of purpose and are very well aligned with MIT’s mission to create long lasting impact on the world. I truly enjoy getting to know the students at D-Lab and see their creativity and technical skills go toward solving profound challenges. If every engineering problem that the world faces was tackled with the same enthusiasm and energy that we see in D-Lab - the world would be a much better place! I am humbled and honored to work with persons that care so much about their work.”

—   Kate Bergeron, Vice President of Hardware Engineering at Apple, (Mechanical Engineering, '93)

“It is such a privilege to come into D-Lab every single day to work with a truly global community of passionate people who are all about the business of creating a more just and equitable world. That we make small, measurable steps in that direction through practical, yet inspired solutions in collaboration with practical yet inspired people is, from a personal and professional standpoint, a dream come true." 

—   Kofi Taha, Associate Director at MIT D-Lab (Masters in Urban Studies & Planning)

 This MIT Giving Day, we hope you’ll make a difference with a gift to D-Lab.

Interested in becoming an MIT Giving Day Ambassador, and telling others why you support D-Lab’s work? Please email Lauren McKown at lmckown@mit.edu and we’ll share the details.

Creating a Valuation Method to Provide Leverage for an Informal Market in Durban, South Africa

by Emma Castaños '17 & Teresa De Figueiredo '17

MIT students Emma and Teresa at the Brook Street Market.


Left to right: AeT staff member, Teresa, and Kate.


Left to right: Emma Castaños and three AeT staff members.


Murals memorializing local traders near the Early Morning Market.


A view of the taxis that travel through Warwick Junction.

MIT seniors Emma Castaños and Teresa De Figueiredo and D-Lab instructor and CREATE Executive Director Kate Mytty traveled to Durban, South Africa to work with the NGO Asiye eTafuleni (AeT). During the month of January, they worked on a Market Valuation project described in this blog post. (A second project focused on Public Lavatories). They worked in close collaboration with the AeT team including Phumelele, Nompumelelo, Tasmi, Patrick, and Richard. Emma and Teresa are both continuing these projects through a UROP supervised by Kate under the MIT CREATE program.

Emma's work was supported by a UGC D-Lab Fieldwork Grant and Teresa's by an MIT Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center Fellowship.


Smiling faces, cake, and sparkling juice greeted us at our first staff meeting. The Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) team had put together a small celebration; not for us, the newly arrived MIT group, but for the service of Lihle on her last day of work. Lihle is a trader from Warwick Junction working as a Hair Dresser, now an AeT intern alumna and a trained Markets of Warwick tour guide. The mutual thanks of the AeT team and Lihle during their goodbyes were our first introduction to the collaborative and welcoming environment that we would discover during our stay with AeT. 

On that same day, Patrick, Nompumelelo, and Phumelele, took us on a tour of Warwick. We saw a market that was bustling with activity, emanating music and energy, and brimming with friendly, hard-working, and kind people. For the rest of our stay, we could always rely on the advice from Nonhlanhla about the best route to take through the market. In the market, we listened to the hubbub around us and the interpretations of our hosts. From Patrick, we learned about the vendor organizations and their self-regulating functions. For example, Traders against Crime formed to combat crime in the highest crime area of Warwick. Today, with the Traders against Crime unit, this area is one of the safest areas of Warwick. We learned that if someone runs past the traders, the traders will stop the running person and make sure they are late for a train and not running away from a crime committed. This illuminated a belief that Richard has shared with us earlier in the day, that Warwick was a democracy in a true meaning of the word.

In the following weeks, we witnessed firsthand the AeT team’s demonstrated understanding of the complex organism that is the Markets of Warwick. Not only does the team know how to work with the stakeholders in the markets, they hold a deep respect for their autonomy and authority. Patrick constantly told us that if one gives the traders respect, they will give respect in return. This principle was shown in practice during our interviews with the vendors. Phumelele, Nompumelelo, and Patrick made sure to explain to the vendors what work we were doing and how our work would directly benefit the vendors. Furthermore, we emphasized that the vendors were the experts in our research and it was crucial we learned from their experiences and knowledge. Through AeT, we learned to foster and appreciate respect for the individual vendors and the market communities.

During our preparation for this internship, we read about Participatory Action Based (PAR) research. We learned that PAR requires including the beneficiaries of the research and ensuring equal opportunity and engagement in the research process and development. It is not simply researchers coming in, completing their work, and leaving; but rather, researchers engaging with the community and empowering the vendors to have ownership over the information and outcomes of the research. Through conversations with Tasmi, we have learned how AeT masterfully applies the concept of PAR. They engage interns that have worked in Warwick Junction, train traders with research skills, hold community meetings and workshops to solicit meaningful input in their project work, and even invite vendors to international conferences. AeT provides an excellent example of PAR and it was a wonderful experience to learn firsthand from them.

In our last week, we learned the meaning of Asiye eTafuleni which means “a seat at the table” in Zulu. This phrase epitomizes AeT’s organizational approach and thus is a perfect phrase to describe their work. In short, the values of respect permeate the AeT work culture. During our time with AeT we felt welcomed and valued, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Warwick!

D-Lab Reg Day Tour & Open House, Feb 6, 1-3 pm

D-Lab Registration Day Tour & Open House
Monday, February 6: Tour 12-1 pm;
Open House with Instructors 1-2 pm

MIT N51 3rd floor

Curious about D-Lab Spring 2017 Courses? Always wanted to come for a tour? Interested in exporing a D-Lab UROP? Have questions for a D-Lab instructor?

If so, come on over the the D-Lab Registration Day Tour and Open House!

2017 Spring D-Lab Course Listings

D-Lab: Design EC.720 (U) / 2.722J (3-0-9)
Instructor: Matt McCambridge

D-Lab: Earth EC.714 (U) (2-0-4)
Instructors: Ariel Phillips & Susan Murcott

D-Lab: Education & Learning EC.S07 (U) / EC.S11 (G) (2-2-5)
Instrutctors: Jessica Huang & Lisa Nam

D-Lab: Energy EC.711 (U), EC.791(G) / 2.651 (3-3-6)
Instructors: Libby Hsu & Amit Gandhi

D-Lab: Field Research EC.788 (G) (3-0-9)
Instructor: Elizabeth Hoffecker

D-Lab: New Economies EC.740 (3-0-6)
Instructors: Libby McDonald & Kate Mytty

D-Lab: Prosthetics for the Developing World EC.722 (2-2-5)
Instructors: Bryan Ranger & Matt McCambridge

D-Lab: Water and Climate Change EC.719 (U), EC.789 (G) (3-4-5)
Instructors: Susan Murcott & Julie Simpson

Humanitarian Innovation EC.750 (U), EC.785 (G) (4-0-8)
Instructors: Amy Smith & Martha Thompson


Design for Complex Environmental Problems  1.015
Instructors: Ari Epstein, & D-Lab's Libby Hsu!

D-Lab UGC Fieldwork Grant Awards!


Fall 2016 UGC D-Lab Fieldwork Grant winners!




Congratulations to the three students who have been awarded Fall 2016 UGC D-Lab Fieldwork Grants!

Check back soon for the winners of the UGC Peer Impact Prizes, which will provide additional funding to these three. 

Creating a Valuation Method to Provide Leverage for an Informal Market
Durban, South Africa

Project Goal

I am part of a partnership between MIT CREATE and Asiye eTalfuni (AeT), a nonprofit organization that aims to support vendors working in public space in Durban, South Africa. I aim to develop a mechanism to value Warwick Market and integrate it into the city’s planning priorities. The long term goal is to share this tool with other practitioners through the WIEGO network.

How funding will support Emma's D-Lab project

Warwick Market is a natural market existing in Durban for over 100 years with an estimated 6,000 to 9,000 vendors that are mostly Zulu. About 30 percent of South Africa’s employment is informal and Durban alone has an estimated 50,000 street vendors. Warwick has an important historical legacy as a space for consumers to find affordable goods and services and for vendors to earn income. UGC funding will support my work on this project over IAP. During IAP, I will be working with AeT to develop a multidimensional valuation metric tool so vendors can demonstrate the value of Warwick. This tool will highlight the needs of the space and legitimize the value of the market. This is the first stage of an ongoing collaboration between CREATE and AeT. I am working with Teresa De Figueiredo '17 and Alaa Raafat (Harvard Student) under the supervision of D-Lab instructor Kate Mytty.

Lauren TenCate ’18
Precious Plastic - Waste to Wealth
Arusha, Tanzania

Project Goal

Over the course of this project, I will implement plastic melting and forming technologies developed by Engineers Without Borders over the course of the past year. Additionally, I will work with community partners to find uses for objects formed from melted plastic bags and bottles.

How funding will support her D-Lab/Engineers Without Borders project

UGC funding will provide the necessary support to travel to Tanzania to implement the plastic melting project she has been involved with for the past year, and which was initiated by D-Lab students in Tanzania in January 2016. Additionally, these funds will be used to purchase equipment to build a plastic melting setup that can be used by the community partner for the foreseeable future. I am hopeful that this project will be able to turn plastic repurposing and manufacturing into a viable industry in Arusha and in the country of Tanzania.

Locally Manufacturable, Inexpensive Motorcycle Ambulance Trailers in Rural Tanzania
Mbeya, Tanzania

Project Goal

In Tanzania and much of rural Africa, villages are not close to hospital centers. If an injury occurs, it is difficult, if not impossible, to get help. The goal of this project is to create a means of transporting sick and injured people over unimproved roads via a motorcycle without making permanent modifications.

How funding will support this D-Lab project

UGC funding will allow me to take this project from a prototype that she is passionate about to a product that has the potential to impact hundreds of lives. This grant will fund a trip to Tanzania over IAP, where I will work with users, local manufacturers, and the project sponsor to make this a reality. This project has the potential to significantly reduce fatalities, by utilizing resources that already exist. By gathering user input and conducting field testing in the location where the prototype will be used, I can ensure this patient transport system will make as large of an impact as possible. I am working with a team that also includes Sade Nabahe '17, Jimmie Harris '17, and Mitch Turley '18. 

Event! November 15: A conversation with Bici-Tec founder Carlos Marroquin


Carlos Marroquin, founder, Bici-Tec (Guatemala). 

Carolos in the Bici-Tec workshop with Charlotte Fagan, International Director of Programs for Bikes Not Bombs. 

SAB graduate Oscar Enrique de Rosa Villega, originally from Bolivia.

Ta Corrales Sanchez '16 and SAB graduate (foreground) with Carlos Marroquin (center back) and colleagues in Costa Rica.

Carolos Marroquin working with students at Bici-Tec.







Pedal-powered innovation from rural Guatemala: A conversation with Bici-Tec founder Carlos Marroquin

Presented by MIT D-Lab & Bikes Not Bombs
at the MIT Museum
265 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, Mass.
Tuesday, November 15, 6 PM (free)
Doors will open at 5:30 and a reception will follow the presentation at 7. A number of bicycle machines will be on display throughout the event.


D-Lab and Bikes Not Bombs are pleased to present Carlos Marroquín, inventor and founder of the Guatemalan social enterprise Bici-Tec, at the MIT Museum on November 15 at 6 P.M. Register to attend this free event here.

Carlos will be joined by Bici-Tec alumnus Dave Boudreau and D-Lab instructor Kate Mytty who will speak about their experiences with pedal-powered machines, working with Carlos, and how their knowledge of appropriate technology has shaped their career paths. 

D-Lab's Gwyn Jones will introduce Carlos and his history with D-Lab. Carlos has been a friend of D-Lab's for almost a decade, participating in the first International Development Design Summits, which took place at MIT in 2007 and 2008, and since then, serving as teacher, mentor, and inspiration to generations of D-Lab students and instructors, and as a member of the International Development Innovation Network.

Bikes Not Bombs has partnered with Bici-Tec since their founding in 2013. BNB provides containers of used bicycles and parts, as well as technical assistance to support Bici-Tec's success in achieving it's mission of spreading pedal-powered alternative technology around the world. Over the years BNB has supported Bici-Tec to create a strategic vision for Bici-Tec as a social enterprise, as well as supported them to launch the School of Appropriate Bici-Technology. BNB looks forward to continuing to work with Bici-Tec into the future, and to see the use of pedal powered technology spread! 

About Carlos Marroquin and Bici-Tec

Carlos has spent the last 20 years innovating pedal powered machines, making significant contributions to the global development of this technology. His slide presentation will cover his work designing, fabricating, promoting and distributing bicimáquinas - bicycle machines - intended to simplify and enhance rural livelihoods and to spur entrepreneurship and economic growth. He will also discuss the context and challenges facing rural Guatemalan farmers and share his experiences addressing these challenges through pedal power machines and by building a global network of pedal powered innovators. 

Carolos' bicimáquina designs include deep-well water pumps, maize degrainers and grinders, blenders, vegetation choppers, coconut shredders, and others. These bicycle machines represent a middle ground between the artisanal and the industrial, and offer a sustainable and energy-appropriate option for smallholder farmers and producers.

In addition to his work as a designer, he has taught workshops and spoken about bicimaquinas extenisvely throughout North and South America and estalbished the Bici-Tec’s School of Appropriate Bici-Technology (SAB), an eight-week program in San Andrés Itzapa, Guatemala. Local and international students  work side-by-side to deepen their understanding of the challenges faced by rural families, the theory and application of appropriate technology, and the design and fabrication of bicimáquinas, as environmentally sustainable labor-saving solutions. Participants design and build a selection of bicimáquinas, drawing from existing designs and exploring new innovations. Ta Corrales Sanchez '16, is the most recent MIT-affiliated graduate of the SAB program.




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