Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010 - $16,500
While the world’s small-scale rural farmers have traditionally been overlooked in global markets, they’re gaining increased access to essential services including financial tools (banking, loans) and IT resources (mobile, internet). At the same time, there has been a global spike in demand for organic, fair-trade products, and small-scale farmers are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunity while at the same time generating employment and income. The challenge for most small-scale farmers is getting their goods to market.
This E-Team is developing the Mobile Information Aggregator (MIA), a mobile application/tool that farmers can use to gain access to global markets. Though a text message on a simple cell phone, the MIA tracks the frequency, quantity of production, and prices that farmers sell via a text message, which then links into a central database system. The MIA provides historical and real-time data to farming cooperatives so that they can make better business decisions, and will help this E-team to understand what cooperatives are producing and help farmers aggregate demand, connect with markets and increase their income.
The team has launched a company, Supply Change, a fair trade, organic fruit company which uses fruit that would otherwise be wasted, processing it into high-value, high-quality products to provide income for farmers and nutritious food for consumers. Individual farmers send their harvest information to their cooperative on a weekly basis via a simple text message. This harvest information is then fed into a central database, producing real-time data that cooperative managers access to make better business decisions to maximize farmers current production, matching supply and market demand. All of this before the food rots and is wasted.
The laparoscopic cholecystectomy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure to remove the gallbladder, is one of the most frequent surgeries performed in the United States, with an estimated 922,000 performed annually. Although laparoscopic removal significantly decreases surgical risk and recovery time, difficulties can arise when removing a gallstone-ridden gallbladder through a twelve-millimeter port. An important step in the surgery occurs when the physician puts the gallbladder into a laparoscopic retrieval bag (endobag); gallstones bulge at the bottom of the bag and can become wedged in the removal site.
To solve the problem, this E-Team is designing an endobag that employs cross-linked synthetic fibers nestled between pieces of polyurethane to create a structure similar to a novelty finger trap. When the surgeon pulls up, the contents inside the endobag lineate (form lines) due to the resulting radial force, preventing bulging of the gallbladder during extraction. The device integrates with the current procedure and tools; no new techniques or equipment are necessary.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010 - $16,500
This E-Team is developing the Leveraged Freedom Chair (LFC), a lever-propelled wheelchair designed specifically to meet the mobility needs of people with disabilities in developing countries. Any wheelchair designed for developing countries needs to be both maneuverable in the home and able to travel long distances on rough roads; the LFC meets the requirements with a lever drive train that allows the rider to use mechanical advantage to efficiently traverse virtually any terrain.
The LFC looks like a normal wheelchair, but with tall levers pointing up from the wheels and a bike-like third wheel attached the to axle. Placing your hands high on the levers and pumping them back and forth generates high torque and an effective low gear; placing your hands low on the levers creates high angular velocity in the drivetrain and an effective high gear.
The E-Team will design and test the LFC in partnership with the largest disability organization in the world, the Indian organization Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), Jaipur, also known as Jaipur Foot.
The team will produce 200 chairs in June 2012 and have capacity to make 500/month. In a small test of ten users in India, four individuals with LFCs gained employment as a result of their newfound mobility.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010 - $17,517
Over one billion people worldwide lack access to clean water, the most basic need for human survival. Within that number, many spend up to eight hours per day walking to the nearest water source, collecting water in heavy buckets, and making the long journey home. According to the UN Millennium Goal Report, forty billion work hours are lost in Africa each year due to time spent transporting water.
This E-Team is developing the Aqua Port, a water transporter that consists of several large plastic cylinders with wheels. The units are threaded onto a horizontal axle and rolled from the water source to the user’s home.
The team is relying heavily on research, testimonials and data from NGO workers, professors, and consumers throughout Africa in designing the device. It fulfills the three major needs they’ve identified for a water transporter: easy to transport, lift, fill, and pour; affordable for people living on less than two dollars per day; and able to transport large amounts of water.
University of California, Berkeley, 2010 - $18,400
Middle-income families in emerging markets around the world would like to have the same hot shower their counterparts in wealthier countries experience every morning. Demand for comfort technologies like water heaters is growing quickly in these markets, but the current options for water heating are either very expensive (tank heaters) or low quality (biomass burning), and all emit significant amounts of carbon. Both the upfront and ongoing energy costs of water heating technologies in, for example, Mexico, make hot water a well-guarded comfort.
The CalSolAgua (CSA) team has developed a low cost solar water heating system capable of reducing energy costs for households in developing countries while also reducing carbon dioxide emissions. CSA’s solar water heater can retail for about $100—one-fourth of the price of competing water tank heaters.
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, 2010 - $20,000
This E-Team is developing IntelliWheels, an after-market addition to off-the-shelf wheelchairs that significantly decreases the effort it takes to propel manual wheelchairs. IntelliWheels uses a gear shifting system to make pushing a wheelchair easier: the user moves forward, backward, and turns by pushing on the hand rims on either side like normal, but two automatic transmissions continuously change gears to keep the user operating in the most efficient way possible. This happens automatically, without the user thinking about it or needing to do anything.
The team built one prototype already, but it did not perform well. The team is now looking to build on what was learned from the first prototype and continue the development of IntelliWheels into a viable product and business focused on the US market.
Cardiac pacemakers save lives by restoring and maintaining a normal, safe heart rate for patients with heart rhythm disorders such as bradycardia (a pathologically slow heart rate). But despite their effectiveness, most patients with bradycardia do not need a permanent implanted device because their problem is temporary and reversible: the heart rhythm disruption stems from a procedure or as a side effect of medication. The options for short-term, temporary pacing to overcome bradycardia are, however, flawed: intravenous medications work only for a subset of patients and have limiting side effects; external pacing pads placed on the chest are ineffective and prohibitively painful to the patient. The placement of a temporary pacing electrode through a large vein directly into the heart is the most effective method, but, unfortunately, it is also known to cause potentially fatal complications, including perforation of the heart wall (1-2%) and dislodgement (10-30%).
To meet the need for a safer method of temporarily supporting patients who have or are at risk for bradycardia, this E-Team is developing a temporary pacing system that eliminates the majority of adverse events due either to perforation or dislodgement.
Over three million US children per year are put under sedation in dental offices. While sedation keeps children calm and still during procedures ranging from cleanings to tooth extractions, it also has potentially fatal consequences. Thirty-three percent of adverse events related to pediatric sedation occur in the dental setting, with 91% of the adverse events resulting in death or permanent neurological injury. Further, 80% of the adverse events involved respiratory problems, since sedatives blunt respiratory drive and relax the upper airway musculature.
This E-Team is developing a device that monitors a child’s breathing while he or she is under the influence of sedatives. The small, wearable, disposable device, called PhonoSafe, alerts the dentist of sub-optimal breathing that lasts longer than fifteen seconds. It consists of a microphone placed on the throat at the level of the trachea to detect breathing sounds, hardware for signal processing to isolate the sounds from ambient noise, and software to analyze the respiratory rate and detect apnea (lack of breathing).
GlobalResolve (GR) is a program at Arizona State that starts village-based ventures in developing countries by introducing sustainable technologies that address economic and health issues. One of those technologies is the Twig Light, a low-cost, sustainable light source. It consists of a wafer-type thermoelectric generator sandwiched between the upper and lower portions of a small box. The upper section is a small combustion chamber in which the user puts small pieces of wood (twigs) to be burned. The lower section sits on the ground or in a few centimeters of water. When the burning wood heats the upper chamber, the temperature difference between the two sections powers the thermoelectric generator, which powers the lights.
An alpha prototype has been developed and tested. With NCIIA funding the team will refine the Twig Light design, test it again, and distribute twenty prototypes to villages in Malawi and Ghana where they’ve worked previously. After a year of field testing they’ll interview villagers about the light, develop a final design, and establish manufacturing capability and supply chains in Malawi and Ghana.
In 2010, the Twig Light team established a company, Daylight Solutions, LLC. Ghanaian partners include one company (Amstar Inc.), an NGO (The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, CEESD) and Nana Afaokwa, the paramount chief of the Domeabra region in Ghana.
The students in Ghana have formed an NGO (The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, CEESD)
The project is moving from the research phase into a venture with the Ghanaian partners. The first 100 commercial prototypes will be manufactured in the US to perfect the process, possibly this year, in a manufacturing cell consisting of micro-CNC equipment. This cell will either be shipped to Ghana or replicated in that country. The initial manufacturing location will be in Domeabra, a village near Kumasi. Plans are to expand to Cameroon and Kenya in a year.
Advancements in endoscopic technology have significantly widened the scope of possible procedures, going from being able to just look inside the body to being able stage cancer, drain pseudocysts and more. But, despite the success of endoscopic technology, doctors often have to remove one device and insert another one each time a new function is needed, whether it be electrocautery, stent deployment or fine needle aspiration. This E-Team is developing a new multifunctional endoscopic needle that will consolidate devices, ultimately reducing waste and procedure time. The team’s needle would be dynamic, allowing the physician to begin a procedure with a small diameter needle to locate and reach a lesion, then further explore or alleviate the lesion by increasing the needle diameter during the procedure. The internal diameter of the needle device would remain large enough to allow simultaneous use of other devices, such as a stent or cautery device, increasing the doctor’s procedural capacity without requiring the removal of the initial device.