Community-Based Projects

Community-Based Projects:

Research & Development for Local Human Development Needs


In this section, we describe three specific community-based projects for human development using our philosophy. We highlight the differences between our projects versus similar projects being done under the "Design for the Other 80%" paradigm [note: now it is called "Design with the Other 80%"]. The surgical lamp has been designed for the needs of unreliable electric grids in Uganda as well as unavailable (or off-grid) health clinics. The bicycle generator is designed for businesses to pay or credit people for generating electricity as well as for remote villages who travel far distances to a charging station. The merry-go-round generator is designed for schools to generate electricity from children's play. In the Physics of Energy link, we cover the physics of how these generators work. In the Business of Energy link, we will cover some of the microeconomics of these devices according to price mechanisms in Uganda.

M-Heal versus Local Surgical Lamp Design

University of Michigan's M-Heal biomedical engineering students are impressed and excited by their media coverage for their surgical lamp design to be imported to Uganda.

Surgical Lamp Designs
M-Heal has received coverage by blogs and various news avenues including words like "brilliant and genius". However, the Ugandan surgical lamp design has three additional benefits in their co-designed lamp: (1) LEDs from locally available Taigeer torches, (2) batteries charged from the grid when it is available, and (3) a back-up hand-crank generator for extreme emergency situations. When asked about co-design opportunities, M-Heal created two design leads (Abigail Mechtenberg and Steve DeWitt) and is trying to incorporate this into future operations. It will be interesting to see the next version of the co-designed M-Heal surgical lamp version.

Blue-Lab versus Local Bicycle Generator Design

UM-Blue Lab Human Powered Generator    Bicycle Generator

University of Michigan's Blue-Lab engineering students brought their human powered generator to the Dominican Republic. It worked and traveled their easily. What a great idea, right? But can it be fixed and maintained? Does it spur innovation?

UM Blue Lab's generator choosen cannot be purchased locally so if and when it breaks, the system will not be repaired. However, if they use a local bicycle and locally available generator (see image below) and co-design the human powered generator, then it could be repaired easily by local technicians. This is what we did in Uganda. The bicycle generator was co-designed and built at the technical institute and was made with all locally available parts in a local garage. Moreover, it was built in one day after assembling all the parts! Since the alternator from a vehicle is already rectified, then it easily outputs 12-14 V needed for battery or car cell phone charger (or anything that can be turned on through a cigerate lighter).

This bicycle generator is spuring ideas of innovation for locals who ride bikes all day long, but that discussion will be covered in another part of the web site. Furthermore,it has already been implemented in Kenya and Ghana with ease and with more enthusiasm than in Uganda. For more information on other applications of the bicycle generator, please see Human Power link to the right.

BYU versus Local Merry-go-Round Generator Design

Brigham Young University mechanical engineering students brought their merry-go-round generator to Ghana (see image below on the left). It worked and traveled to Ghana successfully and installed in a school. What a great idea, right? It provides electricity to a school with children's play! But can it be fixed and maintained locally? Does it spur local innovation and economic development? The Ugandan merry-go-round generator was built with all locally available materials and expertise (see image below-center and below right). It should be installed soon now that it is finished, but we do not have pictures to share at this time.

Merry-Go-Round Generators

More on Community-Based Projects

University of Michigan engineering students used a curriculum module created by Abigail Mechtenberg for Panos Papalambros' senior design course. Their economic model of locally designed and built merry-go-round generators estimated a net profit of $1,000,000 USD in five years based on the extreme demand for off-grid schools in Uganda. Whether or not their economic model is accurate, the point illustrates results similar to Bottom-of-the-Pyramid business research: microenterprise solutions to a vibrant market is profitable. The real question is how to invest in this project to create this type of community-based market for off-grid electricity generation projects.





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Please contact Abigail Mechtenberg for more information at amechten@gmail.com.
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