MIT Engineer Amy Smith, the Guru of Low-Tech Engineering. Even a simple design has the potential to save lives.
The world is plagued by a number of health problems. Nothing new about that. However, did you know what the leading cause of death among children below five years of age is? It is not malaria or even malnutrition. In global terms, the cause is smoke from the indoor cooking fires. Breathing in that smoke can lead to acute respiration infections which can be fatal for children.
This is where Amy Smith comes in. She has successfully brought a project to conclusion that can make a tremendous positive social impact on this global problem. You go girl!
MIT Engineer Amy Smith, the Guru of Low-Tech Engineering (Source: UMSL)
For her solution, she took the example of Haiti. One of the biggest concerns of Haiti right now is deforestation. Why is that? Well, people need fuel and they end up turning to the forests to get wood. They use the wood for cooking fires. Unfortunately, the smoke produced is deadly.
MIT Engineer Amy Smith, the Guru of Low-Tech Engineering (Source: World Wildlife)
So, what’s the solution? It’s easy to say that the solution is an alternative source of fuel but what? One innovative volunteer from Peace Corps suggested the use of waste paper in the form of briquettes by compression. However, the process is slow and ultimately, the briquettes don’t burn. So, you need a better option.
MIT Engineer Amy Smith, the Guru of Low-Tech Engineering (Source: TED)
Amy realized that the alternative fuel would have to be one that was readily available to the people at the local level. She zeroed in on bagasse. Now, bagasse is a waste product leftover from sugar mills. It is completely useless. However, this waste resource can be converted to charcoal. So, Amy and her team developed a process for converting bagasse into charcoal quickly and efficiently. The solution was again briquettes. This time, she used cassava roots to create a sticky porridge which could keep the charcoal briquettes together.
Charcoal is a much cleaner fuel compared to wood or even dung. The process developed by Amy also ensures the cheapness of the fuel. In other words, we have a viable solution.