D-Lab

The Politics of Invention, March 31: Amy Smith, Pagan Kennedy, Sasha Costanza-Chock, Sunday Silungwe

PANEL DISCUSSION
Who invents for whom? Who gets credit for inventing? What gets called an invention?
Thursday, March 31, 5:00 - 6:30 PM (Free), MIT Museum, 265 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 

MEET THE PANELISTS

Sasha Costanza-Chock

SASHA COSTANZA-CHOCK 
Associate Professor, MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing

About Sasha: Sasha Costanza-Chock is a scholar and media maker who works in the interrelated areas of social movements and information and communication technologies; participatory technology design and community based participatory research; and the transnational movement for media justice and communication rights, including comunicación populár. He holds a Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California, where he was a Postdoctoral Research Associate. He is also a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. While living in Los Angeles, he worked on a variety of civic media projects with community-based organizations, including the award-winning VozMob.net platform. More information about Sasha's work can be found at schock.cc.

Statement: Designers, technologists, inventors, and institutions are increasingly turning to more inclusive design processes. This shift has great potential to organize innovation in more productive, useful, and democratic ways. Often, however, these practices, ultimately serve extractive ends: extensive domain knowledge and tacit understanding are distilled through the 'participatory design' process, then taken away from the people and communities who 'participated' to be transformed into a product or service that is sold back to the community (or to global markets), nearly always without compensation or even recognition. How can we shift the extractive dynamic of the increasingly popular – and well-meaning – participatory design process? What would Design Justice look like?

Pagan Kennedy

PAGAN KENNEDY 
Author, Inventology

About Pagan: The former Innovation columnist for the New York Times Magazine, Pagan is author of eleven books. She has been an MIT Knight Science Journalism fellow and published articles in dozens of newspapers and magazines. Other awards include a Smithsonian fellowship, a Massachusetts Book Prize honor in nonfiction, and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. Her most recent book, Inventology, was published this year. The book, featuring a chapter on MIT D-Lab's Amy Smith, takes the reader through the methods that visionaries use to imagine new technologies. Based on interviews with inventors, economists and psychologists—as well as evidence from studies—the book reveals the steps that produce discoveries.

Statement: In the 1960s, following the exposure of a fatally dangerous Chevy Corvair flaw, Ralph Nader noted, “The liberation of the engineering imagination for automotive safety cannot take place within the automobile industry.” Nader’s point was that the designers and executives at the car companies had begun to dwell inside their own parallel reality — one in which it was acceptable to kill the customer. What creates the kinds of toxic environments in which designers lose sight of health and safety? What do we do about it?

 

Sunday Silungwe

SUNDAY SILUNGWE 
Co-Founder, Zasaka (Zambia), Member International Development Innovation Network

About Sunday: Sunday is co-founder of Zasaka, located in Chipata, Zambia. Zasaka introduces affordable, appropriate technologies to farmers to help them grow and market diverse, high-value crops. Previously, Sunday worked for Heifer International, and trained at the Institute for Biblical Community Development at John Brown University. He started an NGO called Integral Community Development (ICD), which uses technology as a tool for building community capacity and educating rural individuals. Sunday holds a degree in Developmental Studies from Zambia Catholic University, and is a proud alumnus of the International Development Design Summit (IDDS). Sunday's hobbies include laughing and cooking—mainly laughing.

Statement: Innovations are passed down through invention and commerce. A rubber tire makes its way into a community that had rubber trees forever. The community in their context doesn’t see or want a tire. So a more useful innovation happens. Tires become soles of shoes, door stops, and chairs. The combination of idea, initiative, and resources is necessary to innovate – even if the resources are minimal. People from outside the rural areas, the impoverished areas, are often shocked at the ideas and initiative possessed there. Introducing rubber as a resource fills a need, so does a hammer, so does a conversation on a new way of thinking. What is the most innovative way to inspire and jump start invention in bottom of the pyramid communities?

Amy Smith

AMY SMITH 
Founder & Co-Director MIT D-Lab; Director, IDIN; Senior Lecturer, MIT Mechanical Engineering

About Amy: Amy served in the US Peace Corps in Botswana and has also done field work in Senegal, South Africa, Nepal, Haiti, Honduras, Uganda, Ghana and Zambia. In 2002, she founded MIT D-Lab, a program which focuses on the development, design, and dissemination of appropriate technologies for international development. She also founded the International Development Innovation Network, the Innovations in International Health program, and the International Development Design Summit. She was selected as a 2004 MacArthur Fellow, recognizing her work in this area and was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2010 for the work she is doing to promote local innovation and technology creation. This semester, she is teaching a new course, Innovation in Relief, Recovery, and Rebuilding.

Statement: With more and more university programs focusing on students developing products and services for people living in poverty, we must ask ourselves if in the process of empowering our students, are we disempowering the people they are designing for? The process of creating a solution is rich with benefits: a sense of pride and accomplishment, the joy of creation and an increased sense of agency. Are these benefits going to the right people? When we develop products and services for people living in poverty, are we disempowering the people we are designing for? When we develop products and services for people living in poverty, are we robbing the end-users of the sense of pride and accomplishment, the joy of creation, and the increased sense of agency benefiting that comes with inventing for one’s own needs?

D-Lab Spring UGC Fieldwork Grants of up to $3,500

MIT freshmen, sophomores, and juniors: Secure $2,375 - $3,500 for D-Lab-related fieldwork from the Underclassmen Giving Campaign!

D-Lab students building a composting toilet in El Salvador, IAP 2016.

Fernando Ruiz '16 - Uganda.

Chheangkea Ieng '17 - Peru.

Sydney Beasley '14 - Mexico.

MIT D-Lab Fieldwork Grants provide funding to send students abroad and continue work initiated at D-Lab to benefit communities in the developing world. These grants are intended for projects that began in a D-Lab class, independent study, UROP, research fellowship, or other D-Lab context. 

Eligibility: MIT freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who:

  • Are currently taking—or have taken—a D-Lab course.
  • Are currently doing a UROP at D-Lab or IDIN research fellowship or have in the past.
  • Are currently working on or have worked on a D-Lab project in any other capacity.

Note: You are not eligible if you have guaranteed travel funding through a class.

APPLICATIONS 

MIT D-Lab Fieldwork Grants

MIT D-Lab Fieldwork Grants provide funding from the MIT Underclassmen Giving Campaign to send students abroad and continue work initiated at D-Lab to benefit communities in the developing world. These grants are intended for projects that began in a D-Lab class, independent study, UROP, research fellowship, or other D-Lab context. Spring 2016 grants are intended for projects and travel to take place over the summer of 2016.

The Underclassmen Giving Campaign

Since October 2006, MIT freshmen, sophomores, and juniors have been donating their time and money to support student grants (this year, D-Lab Fieldwork Grants) through the Underclassmen Giving Campaign (UGC). 

Each semester, volunteers gather in Lobby 10 for a one-week campaign, encouraging classmates to support their fellow students by helping fund their project ideas and turn them into reality.

Fundraising and Voting

Donating to the UGC is simple. Each fall and spring there is a campaign to raise money to support grants for the upcoming year in Lobby 10 from freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Donating via the UGC website is also an option. Each underclassman who donates gets to vote for her/his favorite project! While all three D-Lab Fieldwork Grant nominees are guarenteed funding, additional Peer Impact Prize  awards of $1500, $750, or $325 will be awarded based on the number of votes received. Underclassmen can certainly donate as many times as they want during the campaign, each donor is allowed only one vote.

Finalist Responsibilities & Qualifications

UGC finalists will represent the UGC, D-Lab, and their project throughout the campaign period. If a team project is selected for funding, the team must designate one individual to represent the team. Finalists may promote their project using various marketing channels, such as, but not limited to: face-to-face communication, e-mail, text messaging and social media. Finalists may not endorse any project other than their own. The MIT Annual Fund will provide information on the finalist’s projects at Lobby 10 booth sessions, co-sponsored class council and UA events and online. Finalists are not responsible for soliciting gifts and should refer prospective donors to a UGC committee member.

Responsibilities

  • Attend a 20-minute informational meeting to learn about the UGC 
  • Provide D-Lab staff with the requested project information 
  • Participate in a two-minute marketing video explaining the project’s focus
  • Attend the UGC’s kick-off candidate poster session in Lobby 10
  • Promote your project during the UGC campaign period. Promotional opportunities include: Lobby 10 booth sessions, co-sponsored class council or UA events, speaking opportunities at class or a student organization meeting, e-mail, text messaging, and social media channels
  • Publicize the UGC
  • Make your own gift during the campaign period
  • Provide a blog post and images to D-Lab and UGC at the end of the project

Qualifications

  • Strong communication skills
  • Belief in giving back to the MIT student community
  • Enthusiasm for MIT and D-Lab
  • The ability to make time for UGC activities

Spring 2016 Timeline

  • Applications due: March 2
  • Announcement of finalist selections: March 10
  • UGC informational meeting (required): Week of March 14
  • Finalist two-minute video recordings: Week of March 14
  • UGC kick-off candidate poster session:12-2 pm on April 11 in Lobby 10
  • Campaign and voting: April 11-15

Download the D-Lab UGC Fieldwork Grant application here!

Download an Overview, Process, and Timeline of the D-Lab UGC Fieldwork Grant program here!

Congratulations to the three winners of D-Lab UGC Fieldwork Grants!

Katelyn Sweeney ’18

McCall Huston ’16

Julia Rue ’18

 

Congratulations to the winners of the first ever UGC Peer Impact Prize! Here are the winners:

  • 1st Place: Katelyn Sweeney ’18, Creating a More Comfortable Transtibial Prosthetic Socket, Kijabe, Kenya
  • 2nd Place: McCall Huston ’16, Peer-to-Peer Electricity Distribution Through Solar-Powered Microgrids, Jamshedpur area, India
  • 3rd Place: Julia Rue ’18, Wheelchair Design and Manufacturing for Underserved Communities, Indonesia

More on all three projects below!

Katelyn Sweeney on her project, Creating a More Comfortable Transtibial Prosthetic Socket, Kijabe, Kenya

I plan to design and prototype a transtibial prosthetic socket that will adapt to short and long-term growth of the user. In order to accomplish this, a granular compartmentalized socket is needed to account for the varied materials and inherent complexity of the human leg, and maximize the device’s stability and function. I will construct the socket out of materials local to Kijabe, and that are easy to maintain and repair. This support to the local amputee community will empower them to control and customize their own prosthetics. 

Due to the customizable nature of our socket design, fieldwork is critical in order to effectively apply the device to existing limb technologies at CURE Hospital in Kijabe, teach patients how to apply their new sockets, and empower the patients to properly customize their devices. A UGC funded D-Lab Fieldwork Grant will allow me to travel abroad and complete field tests.

McCall Huston on her project, Peer-to-Peer Electricity Distribution Through Solar-Powered Microgrids, Jamshedpur area, India

I plan to get feedback on the user interface of current product prototypes, explore manufacturing capabilities of local facilities for future mass production and learn about the supply chain for similar consumer products.

The UGC Award will help fund my travel to India as well as finance materials for rapid prototyping of product mock-ups. A large part of the grant will cover airfare costs and living expenses while on the trip. The remainder will allow me to make physical prototypes for on-site user testing.

Julie Rue: on her project, Wheelchair Design and Manufacturing for Underserved Communities in Indonesia

To implement and user-test two new prototypes for wheelchairs designed for the needs of users in underserved communities in Indonesia. I also plan to observe and trouble-shoot the design of current wheelchairs and their manufacturing process. I hope to help advance and contribute to wheelchair design in developing countries and increase the potential impact of mass-produced technology on individual lives. 

The UGC-funded D-Lab Fieldwork Grant will allow me to travel to Indonesia to implement this project. The money will be used to cover flight costs, room and board, and transportation within Indonesia to different manufacturing buildings, clinics, and communities."

Thank you!

And thank you to all of the volunteers and donors who made the fall Underclassmen Giving Campaign a huge success this semester! Here’s the breakdown of the results for just one week of fundraising from the classes of 2017, 2018 and 2019:

Number of Underclassman donors:842
Total Underclassman Participation: 26%
Total Underclassman Dollars raised: $3,315
Total Dollars with match by Joe Levitch ’69:$6,630

The UGC will start up again this spring, if you want to volunteer or learn more about the UGC send us an email at ugc@mit.edu.

D-Lab Fall Student Showcase & Open House 2015

Final presentations & working prototypes from current D-Lab students
Friday, December 4, 5:00-7:00 pm - D-Lab, MIT N51 3rd floor (310)

D-Lab challenges talented students to use their math, science, engineering, social science, and business skills to tackle a broad range of global poverty issues. Come see the projects our students are working on!

WHAT: Final presentations & working prototypes from current D-Lab students
WHEN: Friday, December 4th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm 
WHERE: At D-Lab, MIT N51-3rd Floor

D-Lab students from the 10 fall courses offered will be presenting!

D-Lab: Development
- D-Lab: Discovery
- D-Lab: Field Research
- D-Lab: Mobility
-
 D-Lab: Prosthetics
- D-Lab: Schools
D-Lab: Supply Chains
D-Lab: Waste
Design for Scale

To kick things off, students will give brief presentations. Attendees will then be able to view all the working prototypes on display throughout the D-Lab space! All welcome.

D-Lab Underclassmen Giving Campaign Fieldwork Grants of up to $3,500 - deadline October 19!

MIT freshmen, sophomores, and juniors: Secure $2,375 - $3,500 for D-Lab-related fieldwork from the Underclassmen Giving Campaign!

Fernando Ruiz '16 - Uganda.

Yiping Xing and Coyin Oh - Ghana.

Chheangkea Ieng '17 - Peru.

Sydney Beasley '14 - Mexico.

MIT D-Lab Fieldwork Grants provide funding to send students abroad and continue work initiated at D-Lab to benefit communities in the developing world. These grants are intended for projects that began in a D-Lab class, independent study, UROP, research fellowship, or other D-Lab context. 

Eligibility: MIT freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who:

  • Are currently taking—or have taken—a D-Lab course.
  • Are currently doing a UROP at D-Lab or IDIN research fellowship or have in the past.
  • Are currently working on or have worked on a D-Lab project in any other capacity.

Note: You are not eligible if you have guaranteed travel funding through a class (e.g., D-Lab: Development).

APPLICATIONS DUE OCTOBER 19

The Underclassmen Giving Campaign

Since October 2006, MIT freshmen, sophomores, and juniors have been donating their time and money to support student grants (this year, D-Lab Fieldwork Grants) through the Underclassmen Giving Campaign (UGC). 

Each semester, volunteers gather in Lobby 10 for a one-week campaign, encouraging classmates to support their fellow students by helping fund their project ideas and turn them into reality.

MIT D-Lab Fieldwork Grants

MIT D-Lab Fieldwork Grants provide funding to send students abroad and continue work initiated at D-Lab to benefit communities in the developing world. These grants are intended for projects that began in a D-Lab class, independent study, UROP, research fellowship, or other D-Lab context.

Fundraising and Voting

Donating to the UGC is simple. Each fall and spring we conduct a campaign to raise money to support Expedition Grants for the upcoming year in Lobby 10 from freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Donating via the UGC website is also an option. Each underclassman who donates gets to vote for her/his favorite project! While all three D-Lab Fieldwork Grant nominees are guarenteed funding, additional Peer Impact Prize  awards of $1500, $750, or $325 will be awarded based on the number of votes received. Underclassmen can certainly donate as many times as they want during the campaign, each donor is allowed only one vote.

Finalist Responsibilities & Qualifications

UGC finalists will represent the UGC, D-Lab, and their project throughout the campaign period. If a team project is selected for funding, the team must designate one individual to represent the team. Finalists may promote their project using various marketing channels, such as, but not limited to: face-to-face communication, e-mail, text messaging and social media. Finalists may not endorse any project other than their own. The MIT Annual Fund will provide information on the finalist’s projects at Lobby 10 booth sessions, co-sponsored class council and UA events and online. Finalists are not responsible for soliciting gifts and should refer prospective donors to a UGC committee member.

Responsibilities

  • Attend a 20-minute informational meeting to learn about the UGC 
  • Provide D-Lab staff with the requested project information 
  • Participate in a two-minute marketing video explaining the project’s focus
  • Attend the UGC’s kick-off candidate poster session from 12-2 pm on November 16 in Lobby 10
  • Promote your project during the UGC campaign period. Promotional opportunities include: Lobby 10 booth sessions, co-sponsored class council or UA events, speaking opportunities at class or a student organization meeting, e-mail, text messaging, and social media channels
  • Publicize the UGC
  • Make your own gift during the campaign period

Qualifications

  • Strong communication skills
  • Belief in giving back to the MIT student community
  • Enthusiasm for MIT and D-Lab
  • The ability to make time for UGC activities

Fall 2015 Timeline

  • Applications due: October 19
  • Announcement of finalist selections: October 26
  • UGC informational meeting (required): Week of November 2
  • Finalist two-minute video recordings: Week of November 2
  • UGC kick-off candidate poster session:12-2 pm on November 16 in Lobby 10
  • Campaign and voting: November 16-20, 2015

Download the D-Lab UGC Fieldwork Grant application here!

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