Low Tech Inventions With High Impact

Happy when good things happen to good folks? With up to $25 million in new USAID funding, D-Lab will now gain greater ability to help people in the developing world find their own solutions. In the past, I have written about Amy Smith, founder of D-Lab  and the work this lab does — such a pleasure knowing almost every person associated with the place. (M-Lab, IDDS). 

Amy Smith is not an easy person to track down. Even during the school year, this inventor and instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology hops over to remote African towns and Latin American villages.When she is on campus, the best bet for finding Ms. Smith is in her basement laboratory – a cluttered workshop with a long whiteboard, exotic souvenirs, and basic tools – known as D-Lab.

Unlike most of MIT, Smith’s workshop is far from cutting-edge. There are no next-gen computers, no vials of polysyllabic chemicals, no fancy equipment. The space is decidedly low-tech – and that’s the point. D-Lab students pinpoint practical problems in the developing countries and then brainstorm and build solutions. Because the people they are trying to help are below the poverty line, the class’s inventions must be simple, effective, and most important, inexpensive.

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