There have been some previous postings by other PC applicants drawing our attention to T.E.D. Conferences (Technology, Entertainment Design) presentations. They are all excellent and stimulating. Here is a special one that is by a former PCV, who went on to become an engineer at M.I.T. She has devoted her post-service career to empowering the people of countries around the world to develop and maintain self-sufficiency and to improve their own health and the health of their families and communities.
Read about Amy Smith:
Amy Smith joined the Peace Corps and served four years as a volunteer in Botswana. During her Peace Corps service she was struck by the fact that "the most needy are often the least empowered to invent solutions to their problems." While she was serving in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, she decided what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. "At one point I had sort of an epiphany, sitting at my desk looking out over the bush, when I realized I wanted to do engineering for developing countries", Smith said. "In Botswana, I was teaching and then working for the ministry of agriculture as a beekeeper, and I remember thinking to myself that I really liked doing development work, but I wished could do some engineering too, because I like creative problem solving", says Smith. "People in the developing world scrape every last ounce of life that they can out of objects, and my students used to bring me things to fix, and I always enjoyed being able to do that."
Going forward, the former Peace Corps volunteer strives to do much more, bringing her inventiveness and boundless energy to bear on some of the world's most persistent problems.
Mechanical engineer Amy Smith's approach to problem-solving in developing nations is refreshingly common-sense: Invent cheap, low-tech devices that use local resources, so communities can reproduce her efforts and ultimately help themselves. Smith, working with her students at MIT's D-Lab, has come up with several useful tools, including an incubator that stays warm without electricity, a simple grain mill, and a tool that converts farm waste into cleaner-burning charcoal.
The inventions have earned Smith three prestigious prizes: the B.F. Goodrich Collegiate Inventors Award, the MIT-Lemelson Prize, and a MacArthur "genius" grant. Her course, "Design for Developing Countries," is a pioneer in bringing humanitarian design into the curriculum of major institutions.
"Smith has a stable of oldfangled technologies that she has reconfigured and applied to underdeveloped areas around the world. Her solutions sound like answers to problems that should have been solved a century ago. To Smith, that's the point."
- Wired News
Watch a brief presentation by her at:
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