Monthly Archive for January, 2013

Offer your help + meet our 39 MIT student-led teams

[This is the latest newsletter from MIT IDEAS Global Challenge. If you'd like to subscribe, add your name and email here.]

Happy New Year from Cambridge, Massachusetts!

So far this year, 39 teams are entering; teams are currently working to develop their ideas like a hand-powered centrifuge that aims to improve the diagnostic capabilities in India’s medical clinics to water distribution machines who’s goal is to reduce bottled water consumption by 90% on college campuses within a year.

There are 70 requests for help at the moment – teams are looking for people to help with business models, design questions, market research, programming and much more. See if you can help:

We welcome you to log into, get to know the teams entering this year through their profiles, offer your help and feedback to teams.

@ IDEAS Global Challenge EVENTS

Generator Dinner: Last October, we hosted 200+ people at our  Generator Dinner as a space for people to gather and learn more about IDEAS Global Challenge, for people to join teams , and for teams to pitch about their projects and recruit team members. More than 30 people pitched an idea at the Generator Dinner and you can read more about their ideas by clicking here. If you’re in the Boston area, join us for the next Generator Dinner happening on Thursday, February 21 at MIT.

Bose Mentorship Night: We were thrilled to bring together our MIT student-led teams and Bose senior management and employees, who served as mentors in helping the 19 participating teams develop business plans, marketing strategies, and more. For the MIT News Office’s coverage of the evening, click here. We’d love to explore similar opportunities with other organizations.


…and much more. To read on more updates and news on IDEAS Global Challenge teams, click here.


Join us at:

  • MIT Scaling Development Ventures Conference: Feb 8-9 @ MIT — We are thrilled to be part of a group of centers around MIT that are hosting the first MIT conference that explores the growth of social ventures in developing regions. We’ll be live-blogging the event and send out the link later. Stay tuned.

Get involved:

YOU CAN HELP TEAMS through the IDEAS Global Challenge site. Teams request help and individuals offer their help. Come help out!

YOU CAN HELP IDEAS GLOBAL CHALLENGE! Our work this year wouldn’t have been possible without our enthusiastic volunteers. If you’re interested in helping us plan and run events, reviewing proposals, and more, email globalchallenge (at)

We are part of the MIT Public Service Center.  Meet this year’s teams: We blog at: We share events and deadlines, at MIT and beyond at: We tweet through @mitchallenge. Email us globalchallenge (at)


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.