ME 491 International Humanitarian Engineering is a design-intensive interdisciplinary course in which teams of students address the challenges of creating new products that enhance the lives of the poor, while respecting their social, cultural and ethical identities.
The following project will be on display during Design Day from 8:00 until noon in the Second Floor Concourse of the MSU Union:
A Portable Water Pump: Macheo Children’s Centre
Clean and accessible water is an essential resource that is unfortunately not widely available in all areas of the world. One such area is in Kenya, where people often struggle to find sources of clean water. For this reason, our Kenyan contact. Simon Wachieni working at the Macheo Children’s Centre in Thika, informed us that a simple portable water pump for use in boreholes would be incredibly helpful.
Many important factors need to be taken into consideration for the design of a portable water pump. Furthermore the method of collecting water from distant water holes also necessitates transportation, which often requires women and children to carry gallons of water over great distances. Water’s heavy. In order to combat these complications, a water pump was designed to ease the process of water acquisition, and eliminate the need for transportion when the water is being extracted from locally available boreholes. The pump’s design specification is dictated by the local conditions, requiring a mechanical advantage to assist with the lifting of the water and taking into account that most users are women and children who are probably malnourished.
A Bean Threshing Device: Guatemala
In Central America, beans (black and red Phaseolus) are a major item in the daily diet. These beans are primarily grown by small plantation subsistence farmers and the three largest bean producing countries in the isthmus separating the Pacific Ocean from the Caribbean Sea are Nicaragua. Honduras and Guatemala. However despite the great regional importance of these crops, the small plantation farmers lack advanced methods of removing the beans from each pod. called threshing, and the situation is further exacerbated because in Central America there are generally two growing seasons each year and therefore two harvesting seasons.
In order to develop a deeper knowledge of current bean threshing practices, Dr Flores our professional advisor, organized a week-long field excursion to Guatemala. There, the team was able to formally interview a large number of subsistence farmers using a questionnaire; interact with horticultural professionals in a variety of locations in the nation; observe first-hand, farming practices associated with crops of different beans; and finally examine in detail the current harvesting methods employed for a variety of different beans.
A bean threshing device has been meticulously designed and prototyped to solve the post bean harvesting process for the poverty- stricken farmers of Central America. This device will decrease the amount of time required to thresh beans, minimize the amount of beans lost, and decrease the negative effects on the human body. The current process involves the gathering of dried bundles of whole bean plants onto a large tarpaulin where workers repeatedly strike the plants with large wooden sticks. The innovative threshing device decreases the amount of time required to thresh beans and therefore increases the efficiency of the post harvest processing of beans. The threshing forces are delivered with a foot- pedaling system in order to take advantage of the strongest muscles in the human body, the quadriceps.
Fruit of Our Labor Mango Dehydration Project: Macheo Children’s Centre
Project “Fruit of Our Labor’s” objective was to develop a method of post-harvest preservation of fresh mangoes. Working with the Macheo Children’s Centre in Kenya, our group addressed malnutrition and reduced the current 50% mango waste during the harvest season.
Our team will take a mission trip to Kenya following the conclusion of the semester. By implementing this dehydrator design, the community will have access to nutrient-rich mangoes year-round in contrast to the current two-month harvest season. Furthermore, the extended availability of vitamins and minerals will be beneficial for childhood development and the reduction of malnourishment. The implementation of our drying stations could provide entrepreneurial livelihoods for families and communities throughout Kenya.
Team “Fruit of Our Labor” comprises four innovative and dedicated Michigan State engineers. Through the years on campus we have developed a global perspective of life on planet Earth and we have an earnest desire to apply our knowledge through humanitarian efforts.
The A-maiz-ing Kenya Project: Macheo Children’s Centre
Small maize farmers in Kenya confront many challenges during the process o f selling their crops at a reasonable profit and providing food for their families. Maize is an important cash crop, but subsistence farmers often receive less money from commercial mills during the glut experienced at harvest time than they could i f self-processing were a feasible option. One of the greatest hurdles to self-processing is the removal of kernels from the ears o f maize; this is currently a very time-consuming and labor intensive task.
The Macheo Children Centre in Thika. Kenya petitioned MSU students to help subsistence maize farmers, by developing a low-cost human-powered mechanical device to promote faster shelling processes, while still remaining within the budgets of farmers with limited incomes. This device is also intended to aid farmers in milling their harvests to produce maize Hour. Currently, access to milling devices is limited and can be costly for most subsistence farmers. Indeed many farmers must stagger the milling of their harvest over the course of a season due to the costs associated with milling, and this delay often causes the growth of various molds and fungi due to improper storage conditions.
In addition, the need for further fuel sources in rural Kenya has led to the development o f a process to transform waste residue from maize harvesting into combustible charcoal. This charcoal can be either used and burned by the farmer. or sold to provide an additional source of income.
A Device for Creating Nutritious Food: Young Children in Sub-Saharan Africa
Proper nutrition for any human being is essential, but it carries increased importance for young children in the prime of their development. A phrase used in the nutrition community is “the first 1000 days”: the most critical time for a child to have proper nutrition is during the first 1000 days following conception. Malnutrition is rampant in Sub-Saharan Africa due in part to a legion of environmental, political, and socio-economic determinants. Left in the wake of these circumstances are generations of children with impaired cognitive and physical development, leading to further challenges with regards to development in this region of the world.
A bounty of nutritious food exists in Tanzania and other sub- Saharan countries, but the technology and infrastructure to provide families with food supplements for their young children is lacking. Indeed the time and energy it takes to cook and prepare a separate meal for their children is often so overwhelming that they choose not to, and instead feed their children a diet with low energy and nutrient density, because water can be up to five miles away, and there is the additional burden of harvesting enough wood for the fire to cook an additional meal. Developing a low-cost method to prepare and adequately cook nutritious meals for babies is critical to creating a culture where children are well nourished.
The focus of this project was to develop a device that mixed raw ingredients available to most Tanzanians (corn, sorghum, millet, and cowpeas, among others) into a homogeneous, nutritious paste and cook it in a short time to provide weaning children (typically between 6 months and 2 years of age) with essential micronutrients. At the end of the semester, the device will be introduced to the Tanzanian people when the team visits East Africa.
Cassava Flour Production in Kenya: Macheo Children’s Centre
The Macheo Children’s Centre was founded in 2005 in Thika, Kenya, with the goal of giving children in Kenya a better future. Some of the programs offered by Macheo provide quality education to children, and a variety of projects to generate income to lessen the financial dependence on sponsors and donors.
Cassava is a staple crop in Kenya that is used in a variety of dishes and this project involved the creation of a human- powered device for transforming cassava roots into flour. The main issue with cassava is that once it has been removed from the ground, it becomes inedible within three days if it is not consumed, or processed into a stable state. The most common process completed to increase the shelf life of the cassava root is to mill it into flour, which will be edible for about two years. When working with cassava there is a toxicity concern, because the skin of the root contains cyanide, and this must be completely removed before processing.
The device that has been developed works in two stages. In the first stage, the peeled cassava root is dried in the sunlight. Next, this dried cassava is placed into the device, where it is milled into flour. This flour can then either be used in cooking to create a variety of dishes or stored for future consumption.