Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why Not? Innovation as the Answer

by annieenergy, This post was originally hosted at Dear World..., Sincerely Science

 If you imagine your day to day life, it would be hard to find a waking moment when your life is not being touched by innovation. Perhaps, you wake up every morning to an alarm that you’ve set on a cellphone. Thanks to the invention of the extraordinarily precise atomic clock, your seven o’clock is the same as that of your teachers, employers and friends. Once you’re on time, perhaps you’ll slide a piece of bread into the slick toaster which boasts several settings that are best avoided on a tight schedule. Maybe you will make your way to your destination in the family car – now with less shine, but still the result of meticulous design and years of testing and trial. Maybe on your way you pass over a bridge that you can trust is structurally sound thanks to advancements in materials that absorb movement and in construction in general. By the time you’ve ticked off the first item on your to-do list, you have probably used hundreds of forms of innovation from the zipper to the newest touch-screen device.
         Several of the innovations that we come across every day seem to run our world, yet they reach little farther than our own front doors; many of these innovations have advanced only the, dare I say, “developed” nations. Still, as our knowledge of technology increases, several innovators have turned their efforts to finding unique solutions to the challenges which several developing countries face.
Here are some ideas that involve harnessing energy to address a few major problems.

Uncharted Play
This energy harvesting soccer ball was designed by a group of students from Harvard University. They were struck by the widespread love of soccer that spans cultures, languages, and continents, but had also noticed the need for off-grid forms of electricity in many developing countries where this love of the game was so huge. By harnessing kinetic energy through a mechanism inside the ball, the group was able to create a soccer ball that provides three hours of energy, after being booted around for only thirty minutes. This energy can be used as a light source for work and learning after dark, charging cell phones for communication in rural areas etc.
Uncharted Play
 The mechanism inside the ball is “gyroscopic” which means that it will stay upright even when the ball spins. When the ball is spun or kicked the magnets and coils inside the mechanism work as a motor (similar to how a shake-flashlight produces electricity) and create electricity which is then stored in a battery. A number of devices can then be plugged into the ball, which itself does not require inflation. Several members of thegroup who invented the SOCCKET then founded Uncharted Play, an organization which aims to combine innovation and the universal idea of fun! 
The Aquaduct:
     The Aquaduct is a full-size tricycle that purifies water while being pedalled. It was designed by a team at IDEO and provides a fascinatingly simple alternative to the long treks that women and children in many regions take to collect water. Most often the water that is collected by these women comes from muddy rivers and is unsafe to drink. Along with lack of resources for traditional purifying methods, these problems prompted IDEO to look further into possible solutions.
When the Aquaduct is pedalled, a pump (which is driven by the stress and release of the water tube) draws water from the “dirty tank” into a filter that purifies the water which is then brought to the “clean tank.” The dirty tank also holds more water than the clean tank so that once the cyclist arrives home, they can activate a clutch which stops the wheels from moving, and pedal to purify the rest of the water.
The invention acts as a source of transportation and cleaner water that would help to provide more time for young girls to go to school and a healthier water supply to communities.

The Biolite Stove:
Biolite Stoves
Smoke inhalation is a deadly issue that we don’t often think considering how long its been since most of us have had to cook over an open fire on a regular basis. Still more than three billion people (almost half the world’s population) cook on open firesor clay ovens without proper ventilation. Those three billion people inhale unhealthy amounts of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide every day and must spend valuable time collecting timber which will burn up quickly in these wide open cooking arrangements.
The Biolite Stove is a cooking stove that is being made available as an alternative to open fire stoves. The Stove converts thermal energy from burning wood into electricity which then runs a fan. The fan turns on at certain intervals which allows it to control the combustion of the wood to increase efficiency and reduce smoke levels. The electric fan allows for the families to collect less wood than would be needed for an open fire and to cook, even in poorly ventilated homes, without the risk of smoke related illnesses. The Stove also produces more electricity than the fan takes to run, so the extra power can be used for lighting or to charge batteries etc., therefore using up almost every bit of energy that the task of cooking provides.
Biolite Stoves

Check out the links above for more information on these fascinating innovations and keep your eyes out for others of their kind. Though I’ve highlighted inventions that are focused on issues in the developing world, these same issues and others just as serious can be found around the world – close to home or spanning seas. It’s entirely possible that if we examine our day to day life and that of others with an innovative eye, we can transform these challenges into creative solutions that will go farther than we ever intended towards promoting self-sustainable communities, families and individuals.
About this contributor: Annieenergy loves to wonder and ponder, explore and rejoice in finding that she barely understands the tiniest smidgin of what happens in the world and of what is possible. She also enjoys writing, playing and sharing music, laughing in the sun and dancing in the rain.

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