One Earth Designs

One Earth Designs

Photo from Scot Frank on Flickr

A few weeks ago I met up with Scot Frank at an event held by Amy Smith‘s D-Lab group at MIT.
Scot told me of his project One Earth Designs, and their work to help create effective engineering solutions for people in the developing world.

Via email, Scot shared a bit about his work creating energy and testing technologies:

It’s a light-weight, portable solar cooker/heater/electric generator made from local materials in high altitude areas of the world. Villagers came to use needing an alternative to spending 5-hours per day collecting fuel, and then suffering from the indoor air pollution effects of its usage.

Right now, we’re working the Himalayas using yak wool for the canvas (used traditionally for tents) and bamboo for structure. When we begin roll-out this summer, the device will be produced locally by villagers themselves as a means of income generation and ensuring future repair and maintenance.


Photo from Scot Frank on Flickr

The rural population of the Himalayan region relies heavily on dung and wood for fuel. Problems surrounding the collection of these fuels include gender inequality, the transmission of pathogens, income depression, environmental degradation, and land conflict. Problems surrounding the combustion of these fuels include high levels of indoor air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Residents of our six partner villages in the eastern Himalayas have asked for improved energy options to address these problems. In response, we have designed the SolSource, a 3-in-1 solar device that harnesses the sun’s energy for portable cooking, household heating, and low-cost thermoelectricity generation. The SolSource directly improves indoor air quality, reduces regional climate change impact, and increases women’s access to education. Indirectly, its manufacture from traditional knowledge and materials has the potential to facilitate sustainable income generation and promote community self-efficacy in rural communities of the Himalayan region.



Photo from Scot Frank on Flickr

We’re also starting up a water testing/treatment/awareness project. Currently we are having NGOs in the Himalayas and Ghana, along with children from two schools (one in San Fran, the other in China) learning the simple water testing method and taking data from their home areas to be contributed online (aka citizen science). Not only will this provide information for people about the water they are drinking (and how to treat it), but we think it can be a wonderful learning activity for hands-on science and awareness. The abstract for this project from a recent conference submission is below.


Photo from Scot Frank on Flickr

Here are some more on the NGOs associated with One Earth Designs:

One Earth Designs is doing fascinating work to help improve the living conditions of people who do not have access to the resources that Westerners do. By leveraging the experience and needs of rural villagers and academics, new technologies are being developed that can save lives and create opportunities. By photographing and posting the shots of these important projects, Scot and his collaborators help keep people aware of the real issues that people face in faraway lands.

What are you doing to make the world a better place? How can you harness the energy around us to do the work we need done? Have you helped design a device that will save lives? Have you seen a great water testing system in use in a rural community? Join the conversation in the comments and contribute your photos and video to the MAKE Flickr pool.

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Making things is the best way to learn about our world.

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