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Simple Technologies with High Aims

Sixty people from more than 20 countries took part in this year’s International Development Design Summit at M.I.T. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has educated many exceptional minds, including twenty-six Nobel Prize winners.

Recently an event took place at M.I.T. to try to think of exceptional ideas for simple, low-cost devices to help the developing world. Sixty people from more than twenty countries took part in the International Development Design Summit.

For a month this summer, they worked with volunteers from M.I.T., Olin College and a group of companies and other schools.

They were divided into ten teams. As the M.I.T. News Office reported, most of the people had never met before. Some spoke no English. But each team had to invent a device to solve a different problem and build a working version.

One team designed a way for people to charge batteries while pumping water with a treadle pump. People would be producing electricity while doing their usual daily work. Farmers in many developing countries use treadle pumps to irrigate their fields.

The energy stored in the batteries would be used to power electric lights at night.

Another team developed a system for making connecting blocks of earth to build walls and buildings. Some of the bricks were designed like the Lego blocks that children use.

Another device breaks up charcoal produced from burned corncobs. The carbon particles can then be pressed into small blocks and used as fuel for cooking. The M.I.T. report said this process would avoid the releases of dangerous carbon-monoxide gas produced when corncobs are burned whole.

One team redesigned a bicycle so it could be used to crush millet, an important grain in Africa and Asia.

Another team designed a rope-and-pulley system to transport goods up a hill from a small village factory in India to a road. From there the goods could be loaded onto trucks.

And another team created a way to help babies born too early in villages far from hospitals. The team developed a simple incubator to keep them warm. The device is designed to be easily built and repaired with materials available locally.

The International Development Design Summit was the idea of Amy Smith. She teaches mechanical engineering at M.I.T. This was the second year of the conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Plans call for the third one to take place next year in Ghana.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. Our reports are online at