Archive for the 'Competition' Category

Mass Customization in Prosthetic Care

We’ve been up to a lot here at The BETH Project. Thanks in part to the support of the IDEAS Global Challenge and MIT Public Service Center, we’ve been busy prototyping, testing and talking to patients and prosthetists.

The BETH Project team first  came together at a MIT H@cking Medicine conference in early 2012, gathering around Asa’s proposal to leverage desktop 3D printing technology to respond to the need of low cost prosthesis in developing countries. Early on we identified that the challenges in providing prosthetic could not be simply solved by reducing existing device cost to increase availability. We began to investigate how the system of care was limiting affordable healthcare and mobility solutions for the global population.

A central problem to addressing the developing world was the lack of trained prosthetists, which essentially creates a bottleneck to meeting the demand for prosthetic care. Even today’s most advanced sockets are made using a half-century old iterative artisanal process that can take weeks and requires expensive specialized machinery.  The limited labor force in combination with the overhead costs results in care facility consolidation making it even more challenging for patient with limited mobility to access the care they need. The World Health Organization estimates there is a shortage of 40,000 prosthetists in the world today and at the current rate it will take 50 years to train another 17,000. This insight led us to design our solution from the ground up instead of trying to attach our ideas onto the existing fabrication and care paradigm.

As with many personal medical devices, understanding the challenges requires getting up close and personal with the problem. Unless you are close to a loved one who wears a prosthesis or you work in the industry, you would not be aware of the daily routines and maintenance that comes with using an artificial limb. After speaking with amputees who have worn prostheses from anywhere from a few months to sixty years, the one concern that came up over and over again was comfort. The difference between comfortable and uncomfortable is quite subtle and a common means to adjust for greater comfort is to grind the hard socket as shown in the image below.



The socket is the core component to a comfortable fitting prosthesis because forms a crucial interface between an amputee’s residual limb and his or her prosthesis. Structurally sockets are unique in that they are required to carry heavy loads and function as an  extension of our skeletal structure, but at the same time provide a comfortable interface where contact is made with an amputee’s soft muscle and skin tissue. Our goal of providing a comfortable fit with a simple fitting process led us to explore socket material alternatives. Conventionally, this is the rigid composite receptacle that is attached to the top of lower-limb prostheses. Unlike the rest of the prosthetic limb, which is generally a standardization part, the socket must be custom fabricated for each individual then painstakingly fitted, adjusted and replaced over time. Ill-fitting sockets are common because of the natural volume changes in our bodies which leads to and uncomfortable fit and if not adjusted, sores that can lead to infections that ultimately compromise amputee health and mobility.


The BETH Project is focused on addressing these challenges with an adjustable socket design that provides the ability to accommodate natural volume changes and reduce pressure on sensitive areas to promote faster healing of sores while extending the usability of a prosthetic limb. Our chosen material provides the opportunity to tap the benefits of mass manufacturing rather than local fabrication, thus lowering costs for all care providers and creating a consistent quality standard for sockets. In places where trained personal and facilities are a premium we hope to relieve care providers from the complexities of socket fabrication, and in some cases providing the opportunity for physical therapists who have transferable skills to fit and provide rehabilitative care to amputees.

MIT IDEAS Global Challenge now on Pinterest

All IDEAS entrants, if you have visual content you would like to display to generate publicity for your team as public voting goes on, there is now a Pinterest board dedicated to showcasing all teams in the Global Challenge, MIT IDEAS Global Challenge Teams.  E-mail yangbodu@alum.mit.edu with your Pinterest username so that you can be added to the list of collaborators who can post to the IDEAS Board.  If you are not on Pinterest yet, you may request an invite via the site itself or by e-mailing the same address listed prior.  Happy pinning!

Tackling the Global Education Crisis, One Innovation at a Time

Whether it’s helping Mexican university students bridge the gap between industry and academia, or providing Ugandan children with basic health education programs, many teams this year have chosen to tackle the difficult problems facing the global education sector.

In recent years, social innovators have joined the ranks of talented teachers and school administrators in rethinking traditional school models, finding creative ways to improve educational quality and access.

A new policy paper by the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation might be of interest to those pursuing projects related to educational reform.

How Social Entrepreneurship is Helping to Improve Education Worldwide (available online) highlights the distinct contributions of social innovators in helping to improve early childhood education in low-income communities, creating alternate channels for funding, and providing basic skills to at-risk populations across the globe.

Author Rupert Scofield, President and CEO of the Foundation for International Community Assistance, draws from several interesting case studies that illustrate the potential for social enterprise to solve issues ranging from poor educational access to the growing achievement gap. The key to the success of these enterprises, Scofield writes, lies in their ability to effectively utilize business practices emphasizing sustainability and scalability – two important attributes of any winning IDEAS Challenge project! Here are a few examples:

In the Bronx, the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco) not only runs multiple afterschool programs and summer camps, but has also created hundreds of revenue-generating businesses within the community, helping to ensure the continued success and long-term sustainability of its programs.

In India, where harsh inequities prevail and 90 million women remain illiterate, the Mann Deshi Foundation provides vocational training and financial literacy to women in impoverished communities. It also runs the Mann Deshi Business School, which delivers microbusiness courses in mobile classrooms, and the Mann Deshi Mahlia Bank, which provides loans for its business school graduates to start microenterprises.

DonorsChoose.org is a charitable marketplace where teachers can make simple classroom requests, from pencils to microscope slides, for their students. As of August 2011, the website has generated $85 million benefitting more than 5 million schoolchildren in the U.S. The website notably allows individual donors to contribute to its overhead costs (with 76% choosing to do so), and has established diverse funding streams that include multiple corporate sponsors.

We hope that these examples of powerful — and sustainable — social innovations offer a bit of inspiration for those joining the education cause!

MIT Global Challenge Partner Wins Design Award!

Kudos to the entire IdeaCouture team led by Cheesan and Caroline for your outstanding work – we’re thrilled and here’s bending an elbow to you!

From PRWeb.com:

There is no shortage of wicked problems. Or good ideas. What would a digital platform look like for MIT’s powerhouse of innovative and entrepreneurial minds to collectively problem-solve the challenges faced by under-served communities without clean water, health care or reliable energy? That was the starting point for Idea Couture, the strategic innovation and multi-disciplinary design team that built and continues to power the MIT Global Challenge.

Recently honored with a prestigious IDSA 2011 International Design Excellence Award (Silver), in the category of Best Interactive Product Experience, the MIT Global Challenge is a digital co-creation platform that inspires, enables and supports the global MIT community to apply innovation as public service and drive solutions to the greatest global challenges.

Read the full announcement here.

Sign off Hand off

Shillong Entrepreneurship AdvertisementThree years at MIT goes faster than a shopping cart strapped with twin jet engines. And, trust me, its just as fun! Well, as you may have guessed, something is up, which is true. I’ll be moving on from MIT at the end of June, looking to apply my interests in art + technology + participation in development in other fields and other settings. Kate will be stepping up to manage the planning and day to day operations of IDEAS and the MIT Global Challenge for 2011-2012 and beyond. For all of you who have worked with Kate in the past, you know this is a great thing – for Kate and for IDEAS! For those of you who may not have had the pleasure, you’re in for a treat.

I remember that when I started here, the position description and conceptualization of the Global Challenge were in shambles – a perfect fit! As someone who loves to initiate, create, instigate – this whole IDEAS and Global Challenge initiative was well-matched to my skills and interests at the time. Coming off of several years working globally in the field of democratic governance with a (pretty deep) side trip into arts education and community engagement, I felt ready for the support and backing of an institutional context with the scope and creativity that building a new program could provide. Could anyone ask for more than that institutional context be MIT? I was eager to learn more about, and from, other resources here as well – homes of innovation like CoLab, D-Lab, and the International Development Initiative.

It has been a pleasure to work with these groups – as well as our partners the MIT150, the MIT Alumni Association, and the host, the MIT Public Service Center – to give shape to the Global Challenge over the last three years. When I first encountered the idea it was a loosely structured proposal built around the success of the IDEAS Competition. As I write, the Global Challenge is a set of strong relationships, a robust online platform, a cohort of 14 incredible teams, and a clear vision for how innovation competitions can serve as a platform for community-wide service and real-world change. I can’t wait to see it grow!

Somoho Mountain of HopeThe work that I see at MIT around community and international development has tremendous potential. From personal devices that increase workplace productivity in resource scarce environments to large-scale infrastructure that transforms community access to goods such as clean, safe, and renewable energy. I see young people and their mentors engaged in deep work to rethink global development, from the ground up. As much as there is great hope in the point solutions and dazzling technology, the complexity and scale of change needed to bring the benefits of modern knowledge to resource-strapped environments is astounding. I am humbled and enlivened by the ways I see today’s innovators at MIT hitting these challenges head-on:

Maa-Bara with its vision for community-scaled, modular closed-loop agriculture. Jeevikah and their efforts to conceive of temporary and very-large-scale water catchment systems for arid regions. Sanergy and their novel way to bring better sanitation to peri-urban settlements while producing energy and fertilizer for a profit. 6dot and their braille labeling solution that excites and responds to user needs for an affordable, portable and fast labeling device. And AssuredLabor, a service that connects workers in emerging markets with jobs using mobile phones. EGG-energy, which brings renewable energy to off-grid markets through a scalable battery leasing service.

These are a few of the projects that inspire me – sophisticated solutions to persistent problems that respond to an opportunity and a community context to support human development in some way. It has been an a privilege to watch these and other student projects grow from nascent ideas to – if not yet full-blown solutions, to flourishing pilot projects. They’re the kind of projects I’d expect to encounter in my travels – from the SOMOHO Mountain of Hope in Soweto to training programs in Shillong to farming innovation where I make my home in Vermont – not the stuff of top-flight engineering. Its heartening to know that the world’s problems are MIT’s problems. That a global challenge can be seen as a local challenge. And that students here have the drive to learn from and work in partnership with communities everywhere.

FiddleheadsI’d like to thank my colleagues at MIT150, the MIT Alumni Association, and the Public Service Center for making my time here so rewarding. I’d especially like to thank the students who have shared your passion and talents – your dreams for a better world -  and for placing your trust in the experiment that is the Global Challenge. Kate, here’s bending an elbow to you, and wishing you every success as you steer this program forward at this remarkable institution.

Cheers, and let’s keep in touch!

lars

Ideas: Unleashing Creativity through Competitions

Dr Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Global Community Initiatives at Microsoft (and recent interviewee of our own Sneha Kannan!) has some insights into student innovation, development, and social change in today’s Huffington Post!

On May 2 as part of MIT’s 150 year anniversary celebrations I will be speaking to students who have entered the MIT IDEAS Competition and Global Challenge — which support innovation and entrepreneurship as a public service. This year more than 80 teams have entered ideas that address barriers to well-being in communities in 24 countries. 46 of them have qualified to enter final proposals.

What is unique about this is that the competition is sparking collaboration among students at MIT and the worldwide MIT alumni network, as well as communities around the world. Opening up the participation to the larger community is interesting and an innovative way for a university to engage a much larger audience. Over the last decade we’ve seen more and more universities and companies launching competitions to develop ‘ideas’ to solve some of the most intractable social problems that we face.

Read the full article here.

Press Release: MIT Global Challenge will Launch to Worldwide Community January 7, 2011

Contact: Lars Hasselblad Torres
617-999-5294
lhtorres@mit.edu

Be A Part of ItCambridge, MA — The MIT Global Challenge, a new initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Public Service Center, will launch on January 7, 2011 as the Institute celebrates 150 years of service to the world. It is anticipated that more than 30 MIT-based teams will compete for a total of $150,000 in awards with up to $25,000 per team that enable winning teams to implement novel solutions to some of the world’s urgent challenges.

The MIT Global Challenge is an online platform that connects and awards teams of public service innovators led by full-time MIT students. The website will unite students, the worldwide MIT community, and their collaborators in identifying barriers to well being in communities around the world, encouraging teams to work together to develop and pilot innovative solutions to those problems.

Sally Susnowitz, Director of the MIT Public Service Center, has described the MIT community as, “a community of ingenious problem solvers who enjoy solving challenging problems.” The MIT Global Challenge, she says, “invites and supports the entire MIT community worldwide in applying their creativity and knowledge to help people in need throughout the world by working with them to create innovative and effective solutions to their problems.”

Continue reading ‘Press Release: MIT Global Challenge will Launch to Worldwide Community January 7, 2011′

Seasons Greetings, Friends of Innovation!

Dear friends of innovation,

globalchallenge_ppt_holidayAs we round the corner on a year filled with challenges large and small, one thing we can count on is that 2011 will bring many more. Its why the world needs people like you more than ever – to take on the problems of our time, to wrestle with them, and to mold solutions to them that work.

There are few more exciting places to see that contest play out than in the classrooms, laboratories, and field sites where MIT faculty and students are at work.

MIT President Susan Hockfield said in her most recent message to the community, “The world has never needed MIT as much as it does now. The major challenges of our age are increasingly shaped by science and technology, and by daunting problems of quantitative analysis and complex synthesis.”

The MIT Global Challenge is one of an ever-growing constellation of resources at MIT that support student problem solving around these challenges. When we launch on January 7, 2011 to the worldwide MIT community, we’ll be doing so with at least 16 new teams and a community of members like you – faculty, students, alumni, and friends – that is more than 2,300 strong.

Its going to be an exciting run-up to the May 2, 2011 awards ceremony, and I hope you will find ways to engage with us and support these incredible young innovators who have the passion, talent, and ethos of service to apply their gifts to the urgent challenges of our time.

Thank you for being a part of it.

Please help us by promoting the MIT Global Challenge to people and networks you think should know about it – those willing to define innovation opportunities, mentor teams, and underwrite awards. Click here to download a recent press release that can help! Questions? Please don’t hesitate to reach out by phone or email.

Until 2011, wishing you and yours warm holiday greetings.

And the winner is…

Congratulations to IDEAS 2010 team Sanergy for your winning entry into the IDEAS and Global Challenge video pitch contest! Judges voted Sanergy’s pitch the best for the clear connection between your team’s accomplishment and the resources offered through IDEAS and the Global Challenge. Most importantly, the video did a wonderful job emphasizing a multidisciplinary team drawn from across the MIT community and a deep connection to community and MIT resources on the ground, like FabLab. Here’s the vid:

Sanergy from Ani Vallabhaneni on Vimeo.

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Thanks so much to all of the teams that entered a video into the pitch contest – the range of projects represented is amazing, and I hope that through the MIT Public Service Center we’ll continue to find ways to support your work. View all of the entries here.

Scot Frank, Sol Source Earn Big for Green Work

Congratulations to alum Scot Frank, who’s solar concentrator just snagged €500,000 in the Netherland’s Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. From the press release:

AMSTERDAM, 23 September 2010 – Scot Frank has won the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge 2010 for the affordable portable solar concentrator SolSource. His Royal Highness Prince Friso of Orange-Nassau, the honorary jury chair, announced the American as the recipient of the €500,000 grand prize.

“This is fantastic,” Frank said. “We’ve been working with target users in China for five years. We’ll use this money to set up our Chinese manufacturing, marketing and distribution base.”

The SolSource is a light, foldable device that harnesses the sun’s energy to cook, generate heat and light, and charge mobile phones. It eliminates indoor air pollution from dung- and wood-burning ovens. SolSource also saves women hours each day by removing the need to collect fuel. The device, to be produced from local materials in its target markets and sold for €10, will be a boon in developing countries.

Read the complete announcement here.