Studying Water Use in India

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I’m Nupur Dokras (LGO ’17), and I recently travelled to India as part of MIT’s D-Lab course, where I worked with in a team of MIT students to study water filtration in Uttarahand. Read my full blog post here.

The purpose of the project was to gather market data for a current MIT research project under Rohit Karnik, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Amy Smith,
Senior Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Founding
Director of D-Lab. We wanted to understand what rural people in India
need and prefer to better develop a low-cost water filter.
We started
our project in Dehradun where we met with local partner organization
People’s Science Institute (PSI). Over a period of three weeks in India,
we travelled to Almora, Kapkot, and Bageshwar, three towns at the base
of the Himalayas, to conduct research. We worked with local university
students as interpreters. We hiked up and down the hills and approached
villagers to conduct interviews. After completing nearly 100 interviews
and a few design workshops, I was able to use what I learned in classes
such as Global Engineering and New Enterprises to develop a set of market findings.

The
interviews gave me an inside perspective on villagers and their way of
life. Some people had to walk for over an hour to gather their water
several times a day. For many, providing food for the family takes
precedence over water quality. Filters and maintenance parts were
difficult to find in local markets because the villages are so remote.

This
trip reinforced my studies here at MIT, but it also absolutely changed
my outlook on life. Not only did I learn about water filtration and
water use, but so much more about a simpler way of life. I saw students
walking for an hour each way to attend school. I laughed with a child as
he ecstatically ran across the field when we fixed his broken plastic
flip flop with duct tape. I tried on a crop basket and felt the enormous
weight of the mustard plants against my back as I climbed the hills.
Families greeted me with a cup of chai even though they had only enough
electricity to power three LEDs for the entire house. I watched ladies
lug gas tanks for cooking from the base of a hill to their kitchens.

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I have visited Mumbai and Delhi for family trips before, so I did not
expect to be affected by culture shock. However, rural India was a
different experience. I realized just how much of an adventure we were
on when we had to go to ten different stores to find bottled water and
had to drive for another hour to find toilet paper and gasoline! The
food, though incredibly spicy, was so fresh and some of the best Indian
food I have ever had. When handed an orange in a village, I was promptly
given salt and spices to smear on the peeled orange. The mix of tangy
and spicy flavors was unforgettable!

This experience gave me a new appreciation for India’s beauty and a simple life. Additionally, I have a new perspective on how to view day-to-day challenges. They pale in comparison to other larger issues in the world. I know I wouldn’t have been able to learn many of these life lessons solely from the classroom. I am incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity and will never forget the relationships I made, experiences I had, and lessons I learned.

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Read my full blog post here!

Disaster Relief Housing in PDD

Jordan Charles ‘17

This past Saturday marked culmination of my semester-long design project for the class Product Development and Design (PDD).  The class is uniquely MIT and is a melting pot of the MIT community.  Students include PhDs, MBAs, SMs in engineering/architecture, and undergraduates.  In addition, there are several students from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) that chose to enroll every year.  The goal of the class is to come up with an innovative idea for a physical product, build a prototype of that product, and develop a comprehensive business plan to bring that product to market.  
My team developed a new concept for disaster relief housing that focuses on modularity, customizability, reusability, and elements of human centered design to enable both physical and psychological recover from natural disasters.  My team consisted of two MBAs, two LGOs, and a designer from RISD.  Our solution was a ‘LEGO-style’ structure made from thermoformed squares that snap on to a skeleton-structure made out of connected pipes (no tools required!).  

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My team presenting to the class (you can see our 1/3 scale prototype in the center of the room behind me)

One of my favorite aspects of the class was the marriage of technology and business. If was fun to not only engineer a physical product, but also consider the business implications of that product throughout the design/development phase.  The class really personifies of the spirit of LGO (the intersection of engineering and business).  Our final product was a holistic solution that is both functional AND marketable.  
I also really enjoyed working with a diverse team.  We primarily built our prototype at RISD in Providence RI so we had the opportunity to interact with the RISD ecosystem and even got to use their photography studio to snap some professional shots of our finished product.

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Our prototype in the studio – pictured on the right is a load test where we (nervously) placed 150 lbs on the roof of our structure.  To our relief, it didn’t break!

The final pitch day was a highlight of the class as all 12 project teams were given 30 minutes to present their prototypes and business plans.  Many teams are planning to patent their ideas and continue developing them in order to take them to market.  Some of my favorite ideas included:
• A wireless credit card-sized external cell phone battery
• Educational toys for kids with disabilities
• A smart bike parking solution
• An integrated CPAP/EPAP machine to relive snoring
Additionally, some teams got really creative for their presentations, buying team t-shirts and even surprising the audience with elaborate costumes.  In the end, the pitch day was a fun celebration of all of our hard work and innovative ideas.  

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Team
Snap-Safe-Shelter-System.  (L-R) Anthony,
Katie, Miriam, and me

USA C-Fx Recap

Andrew Gabris ‘16

On April 28, LGO hosted the final cultural function (c-function) of the year.  Volunteers from the two LGO classes showed up early to decorate Walker Memorial.  In order to avoid long food and beverage lines, LGOs paid careful attention to layout and came up with a new and innovative solution for the setup.  We wanted to ensure that everyone would have easy access to the American Pils brewed specifically for the event by Aeronaut as well as the barbecue.  

Over 830 attendees from across the Sloan School made it to the event, which was a record for the school year.  In addition to the enthusiastic Sloanies that made the event unforgettable, we would also like to acknowledge Aeronaut, Boston Consulting Group, American Industrial Partners, and the LGO Program for their generous support of the event.

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LGOs Getting Ready for the Big Event

The night’s entertainment began with a hot dog eating contest, which was actually won by LGO 16, Diego Pinhao.  He managed to eat 10 hot dogs in two minutes as well as an additional five dogs in the one minute tie breaker.  From here, a group of Sloanie dancers took the stage to perform a variety of American-styled dances before a student band closed out the night.  

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Getting Ready for the Hot Dog Eating Contest

As a graduating second year, the event was bittersweet.  It was an amazing night to hang out with all the Sloanies that I’ve grown so close to over the past two years, but this was my last c-function.  It’s hard to believe that spring is here and commencement is just around the corner.  As sad as it is to say goodbye to Sloan, I wouldn’t trade the previous two years for anything.  I’ve learned so much, grown as a leader and had an amazing time in the process.

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The Band in Action

GuaTrek

Ana Ortiz Garcia (’16) organized a trip to her home country of Guatemala over SIP and Spring Break. Ana’s classmates Tamara Belkina, David Semko, and Clararose Voigt as well as Clara’s husband, John Schott joined her for the two-week excursion. The group affectionately referred to the trip (which had a decidedly LGO flavor) as GuaTrek or simply GPT, a nod to the LGO traditions of Domestic Plant Trek (DPT) and International Plant Trek (IPT).

Tamara, David, and Clara listen intently as Alejandro from Grupo OEG describes how Kingo (@Kingoenergy) is #TurningLivesON through distribution of affordable, pre-paid, solar energy solutions in rural areas of Guatemala.

Tamara, Ana, John, Clara, and David take time to pose for a picture atop one of the 16 wind turbines at Parque Eólico San Antonio El Sitio.

Ana, Tamara, and Clara look on as Gladys shows David the bracelets she manufactured.

John, Tamara, and Clara listen as Taylor from Antigua Cerveza explains the inner workings of the bottling equipment at the start-up brewery.

Tamara, John, and David pose with Timoteo, a coffee farmer and co-founder of the De La Gente coffee co-op in San Miguel Escobar.

Clara, Tamara, and Ana show off their newly purchased jade earrings after a stop at the Casa Del Jade museum in Antigua.

Ana and Clara pause to take a photo while admiring the grandeur of the Gran Jaguar Temple at Tikal.

Clara, Tamara, Ana, and David pause at the top of Tikal’s Temple IV, the second highest temple in the Mayan World.

LGO in India

Saila Parthasarathy is taking her Global Engineering project on the road to India. Along with her team, she partnered with LV Prasad Eye Institute to create a prototype for a wearable magnification device for children with low vision. A few members of her team flew to India over Sloan Innovation Period/Spring Break to present their idea to the company.

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Below Saila’s prototype can be seen for the wearable device.

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Saila met with the founder, Dr. G.N. Rao. Dr. Prem Nandhini and teammates Anastasia and Boris are also photographed below.

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Global Engineering is taught by Prof. Amos Winter. The class focusses on combining “rigorous engineering theory and user-centered product design” for developing and emerging markets.