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Magazine Editorial

Honey bee publish details

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Category Collaborative Learning
Title Fabricating Solutions for the Persistent Problems of the Poor: Summer School on Inclusive Innovations, 2016
Abstract It is a paradox that despite having outstanding scientific and technological prowess, millions of disadvantaged communities continues to use thousand year old practices in agriculture or other natural resource based livelihood activities. The result is that their productivity remains low and thus the income, and/or wages too. The Honey Bee Network has been conscious of the fact that not all local problems are solved by grassroots innovators. When a problem has remained unaddressed by the formal sector as well informal sector, a paradoxical situation arises: institutional system as it exists has failed to take cognizance of that problem and yet solutions don’t seem so difficult. In many cases, the users themselves have not been able to find an optimal solution either. Having been tolerant of drudgery, and with limited or no access to external resources or fabrication skills, one learns to live with the problems. It is not just the poor, who do so. Many of us have not been any different.SRISTI-UNICEF Summer Innovation School 2016 was organised from May 23 to June 12, 2016 Ahmedabad, Gujarat to overcome such barriers to cross the boundaries. A children creativity workshop was organised for two days just preceding summer school. The college students were supposed to observe how young children from disadvantaged and middle class backgrounds together carried out research, identified unmet social needs and proposed solutions. The idea also was that if such young children can sense the unmet needs, why could not grown up college tech students do the same, or even better?
Details The entries were received from engineering and design college students all over the country. The shortlisting was done based on assignments submitted by them. They had to design and explain a solution for either one of the four problems given to them viz. extremely low cost, flexible seed dibbler, manual paddy transplanter, cactus fruit plucker and mahua flower collector. The students with backgrounds ranging from design, biotechnology, mechanical, chemical, electrical, and mining engineering and information & communication technology (ICT) participated in the summer school.The summer school was a mix of both classroom and field visits. The students attended lectures to understand the basic of empathetic design followed by the field visit to understand the actual problems at the community level. Using this information they developed several versions of the prototypes tested in the field iteratively. In the earlier summer school, it was observed that many students could never get away from the first design that came into their mind. This habit became a bottleneck in listening, destroying the first prototype and then rethink, redesign, re-test and listen every time more carefully to the users who could not share all the feedback in one visit or on one design. Destroying first prototype was stressed as an important step and an essential ritual. Tangential creativity will not get triggered otherwise. The students interacted with not only the end-users and fabricators but also subject experts.Guest lectures on various topics included understanding the entire innovation and value chain. Experts from eminent institutions like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru, University of California, Berkley, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia and National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad University, IIMA, NIF, GIAN etc., mentored the participants besides from SRISTI. The key collaborators viz., Kodarbhai Patel, Bharat Agrawat, Jasdan Organic farmers group, Upendrabhai Rathod, Bachubhai Thesia, Jaymin Patel, Sachin Panchal, Natubhai Vader and numerous other volunteers helped in the school.CASE 1: Cactus fruit-plucking and processing devices for small-scale/household applicationsGanesh Bapat, Mohammed Shiyas P C, Parul Agarwal, Sarat Balivada, Shubham Agrawal, Shubhangi KediaTraditional method of cactus fruit plucking involves the use of a wooden stick or a stick with hook and container. Ripe fruits are hit lightly with a stick and are collected in the container below. The alternatives available do not help in continuous collection and a lot of time is lost in transferring the fruits to the bin. The Koli and Devipujak communities, socially quite disadvantaged, are normally involved in collection of the cactus fruit. The team analyzed the root -cause of the problem. After a few brainstorming and mind mapping sessions, they came up with a preliminary set of ideas for further exploration.Discussion with manufacturing expertsAffordability, local repairability and flexibility: Cost-effectiveness was a major concern for each design. The fabricators advice on selection of material based on design requirements was considered by each team. Material of the pipe of the fruit-plucker could be made from: a) Aluminium sheet as it is light in weight and cost-effective; b) UPVC as it is thicker and heavier than the regular PVC; c) PVC or d) Plastic pipe as it is corrosion-resistant, lighter in weight and more cost-effective than aluminium sheet. It may not be strong enough though. Ideally bio-composites should have been used to blend circularity that is environmental sustainability as well. In the future, attempt will be made to involve material scientists to achieve this goal.They visited Chittal and saw a device developed by a farm machinery fabricator, Upendrabhai Rathod consisting of a brake cable-operated fruit holder to pluck fruits from the tree. It is a cost-effective device and light weight but again did not allow continuous collection.Modularity: A particular stress was placed on modularity of the design so that users can combine different components in various combinations depending upon local conditions. Uniform standardized design prevent users in specially rural conditions to adapt the design according to local and personal conditions.Improvements desired in the new designsThe participants identified the following improvements, a new design should have: Fruit plucker: Continuous fruit collection, allow for reaching height of 10-12 feet and should be lighter in weight and easy to handle. Earlier design by Bharat bhai in which a scissor was attached on the top of a PVC pipe was also shared with the team.Fruit processor: A method for reducing drudgery. And preservation of cactus fruit were explored.Prototypes:Two devices for cactus fruit-plucking and two devices for processing of its fruits were designed and developed: Prototype 1:Handle: 2.5-inch, 6-feet PVC pipe with a bottom cap. The pipe also acts as collector.Plucker side: A rectangular cut with three teeth, each at the bottom and the top at the handle.Plucker top: Star shaped opening made on PVC cap. Prototype 2:Handle: 2.5-inch, 6-feet PVC pipe with a bottom cap. The pipe also acts as collector.Plucker side: A rectangular opening on the handle, with concentric pieces of pipe with blades on edges. Designed to cut the fruit and hold it inside the handle. Spring attached to move the top pipe back to its original position.Lever and wire: A cycle brake wire connects the moving pipe to a 3-inch PVC pipe on the handle.Prototype 3:Diameter increased from 2.5 to 3 inches.Plucker: the diameter of the pipe was increased from 2.5 to 3 inches. Curved and larger cutting blades were added. Prototype 4:Handle: A two inch PVC pipe of six- feet length.Plucker: A diamond-shaped opening on the handle. Final PrototypeSeven different parts were designed and developed which could be combined in different combination to generate 12 different devices.Handle: Two types of handles a two-inch PVC pipes and wooden stick could be connected to all types of pluckersPlucker side: Three types of pluckers were made -two long, one short. 3-inch diamond shaped. 2 inch.Plucker top: Two different shapes (six-sided star and a square) were cut on the PVC cap of three inches, which could be fitted on all of the above-mentioned pluckers.Prototype 1: Thorn RemovalA container with a steel mesh, few centimetres from the bottom and two brushes attached to the top lid. The fruits are placed between the mesh and lid, and the container could be moved vigorously for a few seconds to remove the thorns.Prototype 2: PulpingA metal- cubical box with several circular openings, ranging from two to five centimetres on the top. A small part of the fruit is cut from its base and pressed against the matching circular opening to separate pulp from peel.Case 2: Beyond convention: An ergonomically-efficient nutcracker device Manthan Jain, Mehul Prajapati, Rahul Padgaonkar, Shashwat VermaEdible Mahua flower is a kind of lifeline in many tribal forested areas. A lot of food dishes are made besides using it syrup for medicinal purposes. It is also used for brewing though use of such drinks except for health purpose has to be discouraged. Its nutritive value is immense (Patel, Prajapati and Dubey, 2015, http://ijpsr.com/bft-article/madhuca-indica-a-review-of-its-medicinal-property/?view=fulltext). Similarly, the inside part of the ripened mahua fruit is edible and its seeds are used for oil production, a substitute for costlier cooking oil in many tribal families. For production of mahua oil, the general protocol followed by the tribals is: First, the seed is removed by simply pressing the ripened fruit. Then, the brown, hard and shiny seed is cracked by manual hammering, which is an inefficient and unsafe process. The kernel is cracked by peeling off the brownish shell. Finally, the kernel is dried under sunlight and ground in a machine or contraption available locally. Nut cracking was the most important and immediate problem to be addressed first.With the help of experts like Kodarbhai Patel and fabricators from Semarika Pharma, they developed a mechanism which had three plates- a punch plate, a nail bed and an iron net plate. Nails of the nail plate go through the holes of the iron-net plate and lastly, the punch plate is hammered on top of it. The punch plate and the nail plate is removed first, keeping the iron-net plate stationary, and later, the iron-net plate is removed, releasing the cracked seeds.Earlier the focus was on mahua nut collection, seed cracking and oil extraction. But, the field visit to Rathva and Damor communities in Sabarkantha and Chota Udepur revealed that nut cracking is a time-consuming process and requires many people. Moreover, there are no existing technologies, which address this problem. The traditional method of nut cracking is hammering the seed with stone and peeling off the kernel from the seed. In the first stage, the participants came up with a few designs, like spike rollers and crushing against the wall. In the later stages, they observed that rubbing/scrubbing could also be used to remove the kernel.PrototypeThe prototype had three components: a hopper, roller and a base plate. The gap between roller and base plate was adjustable. The hopper now allowed the seed to enter into the device through only three holes hence making the loading of the seeds more controlled and uniform.A bearing was added to provide the roller a smooth rotation. Bolts used on the roller surface were varying in the size because of the heads of the bolt. The initial version was unstable on the ground and so, four additional clamps were added to the device which could be fixed with the ground.Way forwardThere can be further improvements to the prototypes. It is important to ensure that children do not get hurt by using the device. A lever can be introduced on both the sides and the handle can be brought at the center to reduce the effort to operate the device. Use of food grade steel was suggested by Prof Amaresh Chakrabarti, IISc to reduce the risk of fungal infections. The seed outflow from the hopper happens at an uneven pace. Introduction of a rotating shaft will lead to a more even seed-loading.Case 3: Broom-making DeviceAkash Kaushal, Neha Sood, Rituja Patil, Saish KapadiThe traditional broom-making process involves thrashing the broom on cheena (an assembly of nails on a wooden board) to cut through the leaves to make the brush finer. The hit-and-pull action of the leaves against the nails results in tearing of leaves and a bristly appearance. The team tried to replicate this motion of hitting and pulling through a mechanism that would guarantee the tearing of leaves just as it does in the manual process. The team had two basic concepts in mind: Whether to move the broom over stationary nails or doing it the other way round. They decided to go with a four-bar mechanism that will replicate the motion of the hand of the broom maker. A curve will trace the motion of the held broom. The action would be driven manually using a cycle’s crank. This action can be actuated by hands or through pedaling. Members of the Devipujak and Rajasthani migrant communities are often involved in broom making. Discussions with broom workers like Rukmani and Harish revealed the following requirements: a) The device should not require a power supply, since getting a power connection is difficult, b) Green leaves cannot be used as they do not give good results. c) Using a claw on leaves does not give good results; d) The new mechanism should facilitate faster production; e) The device should be stable and robust to stand continuous motion, f) If the chain mechanism is used, frequent slippage or slacking of chain is likely; and g) If a leg-operated device is designed, the cost of manufacturing might increase.Prototype - Model of the claw mechanismA four-bar linkage and coupler curves were used to trace the motion of the human hand. The next challenge was to make the device portable. In addition, from end-user feedback it was revealed that the density of nail spacing had to be increased for effective combing of the straw fibre. The idea of a leg operated device was shelved as it was too bulky. The final prototype was made after several iterations. When the women users visited the summer school to evaluate the machine on the last day, they observed that the tearing action was not suitable. The nails cut the leaves but did not rub against it. They moved the handle back and forth to study the mechanism carefully. A lot of improvement still remains to be done. This group had to destroy the first prototype to be able to think afresh.The remaining cases will be discussed in the next issue. SRISTI welcomes partnership with designers, fabricators, material scientists and mechanical engineers. The Honey Bee Network strongly believes that patience of the economically poor people will run dry if formal sector did not start addressing so many unmet social and technology needs urgently. We need an empathetic, interactive, iterative, modular, flexible and extremely affordable design process. The Summer School is a step in this direction.
Volume No. Honey Bee 27(3) 14-17, 2016