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Mzungu Engineering March 21, 2008

Posted by Mike O in Engineering.
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My experiences in Uganda made clear to me that a number of small mechanical, electrical and/or manual systems could be deleveloped as engineering projects at the high school or college levels, or as NGO-funded projects. The purpose of these postings is to establish the needs and general specifications of engineering projects that would be of extreme value in third-world, poverty-stricken areas.

The goal of each project is to engineer useful components for third world charitable operations.  All items must meet certain generic parameters

  • The total system must weigh under 50 pounds when packed for shipping  (as luggage on an airline).
  • It must be no larger than the luggage requirements of international airlines (length + width + height must not exceed 62 inches)
  • It must be packed in a way to be assured survival in airline transport and it must be capable of being repacked.
  • It must break down into backpack sizes and weight; not more than 30 pounds and 18 by 30 by 8 inches.
  • The entire apparatus must be lockable in a secure case form to prevent theft.
  • The system must require no or very simple maintenance.
  • The system must be very easy to set up and use; consideration of third world knowledge base must be considered.
  • The entire apparatus must be rugged, insensitive to environmental temperature extremes, and water/humidity resistant.
  • The system should be reasonably cheap to produce.  Therefore, Nearly all components should all be off the shelf.

The types of projects involve attempts to bring lighting, water handling, medical, and educational capabilities where there is no basic infrastructure at all: power, communication, sewage, piped water, and paved roads may all not be available. The specific projects are as follow:

  • Solar lighting system capable of lighting a home or small common areas sufficiently for comfortable reading.
  • Backpackable materials- including books- sufficient to teach specific secondary classes (math, sciences, health, etc.) to a minimum of 25 pupils
  • Water pumping and filtering systems.