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 9:00 until noon in the 1200 Hallway of the Engineering building:
Appropriate Technology Collaborative: Aiding Guatemalans with Ultraviolet Absorption
In 2011, over 15% of the world’s population didn’t have access to potable drinking water. A consequence of this situation is the host of water-borne diseases that afflict men, women, and especially vulnerable children who suffer irreversibly from stunting and under-nutrition, and ultimately never achieve their potential, nor contribute effectively to society. Guatemala is one of planet Earth’s worst countries manifesting this situation because 50% of the children under the age of five suffer from this medical condition. Currently Guatemalans employ simple filtration devices to remove sand and other impurities from their water supply, but these basic filters are ineffective against common medical ailments like Typhoid, Leptospira, and Schistosoma.
One enhanced approach to achieving potable water, is to kill the bacteria by subjecting it to ultra violet light in the 254nm spectrum. Ultra violet light destroys the DNA of bacteria and viruses and it has been proven to be effective in sanitizing water. Commercial products used by explorers and hikers typically cost a few hundred dollars, but the device developed by the MSU team will not exceed twenty dollars, because most Guatemalans do not have an income greater than two U.S. dollars a day.
By creating a portable device that can purify water, hundreds if not thousands of lives will be saved each year in this Latin American nation. Indeed many of these lives will be young children, the future of the country.
Semilla Nueva: Portable Pigeon-pea Thresher
Semilla Nueva is a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, that’s dedicated to helping rural farmers discover a path to prosperity, health, and sustainability through sustainable agricultural technologies and farmer-to- farmer education. One of their numerous projects is the launching of an embryonic pigeonpea industry. This legume is being introduced to the local culture in order to serve as a permaculture crop that will provide an enhanced income stream for the smallholder farmers and it’s also an excellent source of nutritious food.
Current harvesting practices are both brutally labor intensive and time-consuming because the pigeonpeas are threshed by beating the crop by hand in order to break open the pods and thereby release the peas for collection. The objectives of this humanitarian project are threefold: to provide impoverished farmers in Guatemala with an innovative, low-cost, human-powered portable thresher that will increase the current pigeonpea production; to develop a device that is not only affordable to smallholder farmers but that is also easily manufactured; and to visit Quetzaltenango in order to undertake field trials with local farmers.
Technoserve: Cost-effective Human-powered Fertilizer Applicator to Increase Crop Yields for Honduran Farmers
Did you know that the average Honduran farmer spends one-third of his or her annual income on fertilizer? Traditionally, this precious fertilizer has been distributed manually over arrays of plants by the handful, in an inefficient ad-hoc horticultural process. Some of the chemicals reach the desired target of each plant’s root system, but a significant percentage is blown far-and-wide by the wind, or heavy rains wash away the powder on the steep slopes of the fields. In order to address this ineffective farming practice, and to improve the social-economic state of these smallholder farmers, an inexpensive, ergonomically-designed device has been developed to deliver the perfect micro- dosage of fertilizer to each plant’s root system. This new applicator device will enable the farmers of Honduras to readily apply varying amounts of common fertilizers directly to the roots of coffee and bean plants throughout the nation. Consequently their lives will be enhanced because time and money will have been saved.
This new technology is an adaption of ideas that originated in Bangladesh under the auspices of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC). There they created a “briquetter” that compacted powdered fertilizer into briquettes and they also created an applicator that delivered the briquettes to a depth of 7-10cm below the surface of rice fields. By utilizing this approach, crop yields increased by 15-20%, fertilizer consumption decreased by 40%, and efficiency increased by 25%. These impressive accomplishments were motivation to transition the ideas to radically different crops in the fields of Honduras. In order to reduce costs further, only one device was created with refined adaptions that permit varying amounts and types of fertilizer to be deployed during the application process. Working with the nonprofit organization, Technoserve in Honduras, similar increases in crop yields, efficiency, and an overall decrease in fertilizer consumption is anticipated for both legume and coffee production.