Appropriate Technology and Focus on Improving Lives at MIT

Posted on October 18, 2014  Comments (0)

I have written about the D-lab at MIT founded by Amy Smith. This is just a reminder of all the good stuff they are doing. The D-Lab is building a global network of innovators to design and disseminate technologies that meaningfully improve the lives of people living in poverty. The program”™s mission is pursued through interdisciplinary courses, technology development, and community initiatives, all of which emphasize experiential learning, real-world projects, community-led development, and scalability.

Another of their initiatives, the International Development Innovators Network seeks to create low-cost, high-impact technologies and ventures, while simultaneously documenting and evaluating approaches to international development that value local ingenuity and innovation. This effort includes design summits, innovation centers, business incubators, and a growing network of over 400 innovators in 50 countries.

D-Lab”™s Youth Outreach Program focuses on Hands-on Invention Education and works with primary and secondary school teachers to develop curricular materials that build the confidence and skills needed by the next generation of innovators from around the world. Together with students and educators from around the world, D-Lab is developing and delivering hands-on curricula aimed at youth that utilize affordable locally available resources.

The program continues to help develop and deploy great products that are meeting the needs to people around the world.

The Leveraged Freedom Chair, is an all-terrain wheelchair designed for the harsh terrain faced by people with disabilities in developing countries.


Tiny Pipes operates as an off-grid electrical utility by installing solar panels on houses and selling the energy that the panels generate. tinyPipes designed their own smart solar panels that they can meter and control over a cellular network.

The MultiCrop Thresher is a low-cost, high-impact multi-crop agricultural processing machine. Traditional methods of threshing include beating the plant on the ground or on a platform using the upper body, or having animals walk over it. The process is arduous, time-intensive, and often, keeps children out of school during harvest time. These methods produce grain that is mixed with dirt and much of the grain remains on the stalk at the end of the process. The only alternatives for smallholder farmers with a variety of crops are rented combines or specialized multi-crop threshers that run on diesel engines. However, these are completely inaccessible and unaffordable to the vast majority of smallholder farmers.

The Wound-Pump system was applied in the field during the Earthquake Relief Effort in Haiti and during a phase I study in Rwanda. It will provide a negative pressure wound therapy option that is affordable, easy-to-use, extremely portable and purely mechanical (i.e. it does not require electricity or battery power).

The work being done to get appropriate technology into people’s lives to materially raise the quality of life is wonderful to see.

Related: Engineering a Better World: Bike Corn-ShellerUsing Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies in Roadless AreasPay as You Go Solar in IndiaAppropriate Technology: Solar Water in Poor Cairo Neighborhoods

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