Amy Smith

Amy Smith is the founder of the International Development Initiative at MIT and has taught classes related to this subject for twelve years. She served in the US Peace Corps in Botswana for four years and has worked in Uganda, Zambia, Senegal, South Africa, Nepal, Haiti, Ghana and Honduras. She is currently a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering. She has taught engineering design at a variety of levels, ranging from high school enrichment programs to graduate courses in sustainable development. She won the 1999 BF Goodrich Collegiate Inventor's Award also won the 2000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for Invention. In 2004 she was selected as a MacArthur Fellow, recognizing her efforts in creating technologies to improve lives in the developing world and for finding opportunities to inspire students to do the same. Her current projects are in the areas of water testing and treatment, agricultural processing and alternative energy.

Amy Smith has applied for and been awarded 4 grants

  • E-teams in D-lab: Promoting Invention and Innovation for International Development

    Began March, 2004 and ended February, 2005

    This proposal is to integrate E-teams into D-lab, a four part series of courses and field trips run by the Edgerton Center at MIT: -a fall term class that focuses on international development and appropriate technology -a winter field trip to visit community partners and identify projects -a spring term design class to develop solutions to these problems -a summer field trip to implement these solutions Students will work in E-teams as they apply their creative problem-solving skills to generate innovative solutions to the problems they identified in the field. As they implement their projects, students will be empowered with the knowledge that they can use their technical skills to make a positive impact in the world

    With the team:

    • Robert Redwine Dean of Undergraduate Education, Dean of Undergraduate Education, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • J. Kim Vandiver Director of the Edgertong Center & Dean of Undergraduate Research, Edgerton Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Robert Redwine Dean of Undergraduate Education, Dean of Undergraduate Education, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Priscilla Caissie Assistant Contract Administrator, Office of Sponsored Programs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Innovations in International Health

    Began January, 2007 and ended June, 2008

    The MIT D-Lab program is a series of classes that inspires and educates students to work with community partners on innovative technologies that have the potential to help alleviate poverty in the developing world. D-Lab technologies have contributed to the well-being of communities, but their distribution has been limited and the issue of accurately identifying community needs remains a challenge. Conversely, community organizations engaged with health issues in developing regions are frustratingly familiar with urgent needs but may lack the technological expertise to address them. We propose to create a mutually beneficial network that connects D-Lab students with community and international organizations, enabling them to address collaboratively the urgently needed health technologies among the world’s poorest people. The proposed Innovations in International Health program will couple a global network of health-related organizations, including research entities, international organizations and community partners with D-Lab students to enable effective development, testing, and dissemination of health technologies that in turn can contribute to economic development in poor regions. The diverse network will enable an increased scale of dissemination worldwide, shared solutions to common problems, and potential application of this collaborative approach to other sector-specific issues in areas such as agriculture and energy. Furthermore, students receive a long-lasting educational impact in understanding their abilities to resolve significant issues, and this will also provide a model for other universities to use in developing their community partnerships.

    With the team:

    • Dr. Rohan Abeyaratne Quentin Berg Professor of Mechanics, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Mrs. Priscilla Caissie Contracts Administrator, Office of Sponsored Programs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Amy Smith
  • Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries

    Began July, 2007 and ended June, 2009

    The Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries class gives students the chance to better the lives of others by improving wheelchairs and tricycles made in the developing world. Lectures focus on understanding local factors, such as operating environments, social stigmas against the disabled, and manufacturing constraints, then applying sound scientific/engineering knowledge to develop appropriate technical solutions. Theory is further connected to real-world implementation during guest lectures by MIT faculty, Third-World community partners, and US wheelchair organizations. Multidisciplinary E-Teams of students, community partners in the developing world, and experts in the wheelchair community conduct term-long projects on topics such as hardware design, manufacturing optimization, biomechanics modeling, and business plan development. Funded fellowships to implement class projects in community partner wheelchair workshops are offered to students during the summer following the class.

    With the team:

    • Amy Smith
    • Ms. Colleen Leslie Assistant Director, Office of Sponsored Programs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Dr. J. Kim Vandiver Director, Edgerton Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Dr. Tom Magnanti Dean of Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Cycle Ventures: The Rickshaw Bank Partnership

    Began January, 2010 and ended August, 2011

    Around the world people use bicycle technology and human power to meet a range of needs in addition to individual personal transport. Examples include rickshaws, cargo transport, grain milling, water pumping, and washing clothes. These solutions are environmentally sustainable, inexpensive and use locally available resources so they can be repaired and modified in the communities where they are used. Wider use and development of these solutions is limited by technical problems and lack of workable economic models. This is a proposal to fund a partnership between a project-based course in the D-Lab Program at MIT (D-Lab Cycle Ventures) and The Rickshaw Bank, a micro-credit enterprise in India that seeks to empower rickshaw drivers and give provide them with the economic independence that comes with owning their own rickshaws.

    With the team:

    • Dr. J. Kim Vandiver Director, Edgerton Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Ms. Priscilla Caissie Contract and Fellowship Administrator, Office of Sponsored Programs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Amy Smith