Amy Smith: Simple designs to save a life
Amy Smith - inventor, engineer
Amy Smith designs cheap, practical fixes for tough problems in developing countries. Among her many accomplishments, the MIT engineer received a MacArthur "genius" grant in 2004 and was the first woman to win the Lemelson-MIT Prize for turning her ideas into inventions. Full bio
of one of my favorite projects.
that I'm working on,
to make a huge impact around the world.
health issues on the planet,
in children under five.
from indoor cooking fires --
caused by this.
and somewhat appalling.
cleaner burning cooking fuels?
to over two million deaths every year?
about the wonders of carbon nanotubes,
about the wonders of carbon macro-tubes,
all over the island.
of environmental problems
throughout the nation.
there was severe flooding
to stabilize the soil.
and the flooding happens.
why there are so few trees is this:
and they make charcoal in order to do it.
to the environmental damage.
but they have no other choice.
that they like their food prepared.
into the forest to find a tree,
to look at alternative cooking fuels.
a team of students down to Haiti
Peace Corps volunteers there.
in the village where he worked.
that you could take waste paper;
that could be used for fuel.
went to work on it
the throughput of this device.
they were very excited about it.
so that they could test them.
that they found was they didn't burn.
discouraging to the students.
it says, "US Peace Corps."
any waste paper in this village.
of government paperwork
back with him to his village,
there might be a better way
an alternative cooking fuel.
is we wanted to make a fuel
readily available on the local level.
from the sugarcane
so they don't feed it to the animals.
until eventually they burn it.
we wanted to find a way
and turn it into a fuel
that people could easily cook with,
to develop a process.
and then you take a very simple kiln
a waste fifty five-gallon oil drum.
that goes into the kiln,
with this carbonized material here.
to be useful for cooking.
to form it into useful briquettes.
one of my students was from Ghana,
used to make for him called "kokonte,"
made out of the cassava root.
is indeed grown in Haiti,
it's all the same thing --
sticky porridge out of it,
the charcoal briquettes.
of the first Ecole de Charbon,
an instructor at MIT as well as CIT.
to a different continent.
cooking fuel in India.
this produces really smoky fires,
the health impacts
and biomass as a fuel.
are especially affected by it,
who are around the cooking fires.
this charcoal-making technology there.
they didn't have sugarcane
the locally available sources of biomass.
and there was rice straw in this area.
was actually small amounts of cow manure,
the charcoal briquettes
burning of a cooking fuel.
a lot more quickly.
comparisons with wood charcoal,
as they were cooking.
to make a stronger briquette
wood charcoal in the markets in Haiti.
what sort of forces you needed
a briquette to the level
improved performance out of it?
students in the lab looking at this,
working to develop the process,
to people in the villages there.
that allows you to produce charcoal,
cleaner than wood charcoal.
where we have a product,
you can buy in Haiti in the marketplace,
are cut down every year.
of this being implemented
from that charcoal is 260 million dollars.
for a country like Haiti --
of less than 400 dollars.
with our charcoal project.
that I think is also interesting,
who's been doing risk analysis.
of the health impacts
you could prevent a million deaths
to charcoal as a cooking fuel.
to do it without cutting down trees.
waste material to create a cooking fuel.
that I took to Ghana just last month.
than what you just saw,
that you don't need to form briquettes --
I brought samples.
field-tested, ready to roll out.
about this technology,
transfer is so easy.
how to form it into briquettes
of cooking the binder,
thing in my life right now,
a sad commentary on my life.
like you guys in the front row --
in those non-zero-sum things.
of the incredibly rare situations
from waste products.
that they were going to spend on charcoal
and sell it in the market
that you don't have trade-offs
or environment and economics.
that I just find extremely exciting
to see where it takes us.
the future we will create,
that I think is necessary
of the world that we live in.
the world that we live in.
spend two to three hours everyday
where advanced building materials
that are made by hand,
60 dollars in a month.
40 billion hours a year fetching water.
of the state of California
doing nothing but fetching water.
for example, if this were India,
would have a car.
would know how the use the Internet.
on less than a dollar a day.
need to come up with solutions for.
we need to be training our engineers,
our entrepreneurs to be facing.
that we need to find.
are especially important that we address.
below the poverty line
basket making, poultry rearing, etc.
and new products
technologies for poor farmers
our development strategies,
about how we can do that effectively.
in these communities
and the tools that they need
and we need to start doing it now.
if someone has a question --
that you've worked on.
things we're working on
water quality testing,
their own water systems,
know when they treat them, etc.
is looking at solar water disinfection
to be able to do that.
preventing this stuff getting from scale?
or venture capitalists,
what you've got and get it to scale?
of people moving it forward.
which is very fragmented
that you use in the United States
I do what I can with the students.
go out into the field
and move it forward.
with a long time frame,
something done in a year or two years;
five or 10 years ahead.
we can move forward.
About the speaker:Amy Smith - inventor, engineer
Amy Smith designs cheap, practical fixes for tough problems in developing countries. Among her many accomplishments, the MIT engineer received a MacArthur "genius" grant in 2004 and was the first woman to win the Lemelson-MIT Prize for turning her ideas into inventions.
Why you should listen
Mechanical engineer Amy Smith's approach to problem-solving in developing nations is refreshingly common-sense: Invent cheap, low-tech devices that use local resources, so communities can reproduce her efforts and ultimately help themselves. Smith, working with her students at MIT's D-Lab, has come up with several useful tools, including an incubator that stays warm without electricity, a simple grain mill, and a tool that converts farm waste into cleaner-burning charcoal.
The inventions have earned Smith three prestigious prizes: the B.F. Goodrich Collegiate Inventors Award, the MIT-Lemelson Prize, and a MacArthur "genius" grant. Her course, "Design for Developing Countries," is a pioneer in bringing humanitarian design into the curriculum of major institutions. Going forward, the former Peace Corps volunteer strives to do much more, bringing her inventiveness and boundless energy to bear on some of the world's most persistent problems.
Amy Smith | Speaker | TED.com