Is this the World’s cheapest solar lamp?

Original article: http://www.designindaba.com/articles/creative-work/world’s-cheapest-solar-lamp

SM100

For the millions without electricity in Africa, basic lighting remains a luxury. Kerosene lamps are expensive. Candles and fires are hazardous and ultimately affects a household’s air quality. Manchester-based design consultancy Inventid’s recent development of what they are claiming is the world’s cheapest solar light could present a solution for this ongoing struggle.

Developed in collaboration with Chinese manufacturer Yingli, the hand-sized lamps retail for around about R63 ($5) and are able to stay lit for up to eight hours when fully charged. Called the SM100 solar light, it is reportedly twice as bright as kerosene lamps and features strap slots so that it can be used as a head-torch or easily strapped to a bicycle.

The lamp was trialled by about 9,000 families in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. It was important to Inventid’s founders that the product’s initial trial be far-reaching in order to best address potential users’ needs.

SM100

“Working closely with charities in Africa we gathered local insights into family routines, the layout of dwellings and environmental conditions,” explains co-founder Henry James. “We listened to the aspirations and ideas of people whose personal experiences have shaped a product that is co-created in Africa.”

Though the SM100 solar light was developed in partnership with charity SolarAid, Inventid have chosen to sell them at cost rather than give them away. According to SolarAid’s founding director, each lamp sold generates money for food and essentials in East Africa.

The recent winner of a silver award in the design for society and design for sustainability categories at the European Product Design Awards, the SM100 solar light can also be bought online for £10 in the UK, with all extra profits going to SolarAid.

Bauhaus: a blueprint for the future

Original article: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/apr/13/bauhaus-dessau-barbican-rowan-moore

Not much united Walter Ulbricht, the Stalinist dictator of East Germany for two decades, and Tom Wolfe, celebrant of the splendours and follies of American capitalist excess. Not much, except a loathing of the Bauhaus and the style of design it inspired. Ulbricht called it “an expression of cosmopolitan building” that was “hostile to the people” and to “the national architectural heritage”. Wolfe called it “an architecture whose tenets prohibit every manifestation of exuberance, power, empire, grandeur or even high spirits and playfulness”.

For Ulbricht it was alien to Germany, for Wolfe it was alien to America. Both agreed that it was placeless, soulless and indifferent to ordinary people’s needs. And if the Bauhaus attracted such consistent forms of hostility, that is due to the power and coherence of the image it presented to the world, of disciplined and monochrome modernist simplicity, usually involving steel and glass. Given that it was actually a short-lived and semi-nomadic school of design and art with the usual riot of individualists, visionaries, eccentrics, schemers and geniuses that such places attract, this appearance of unity was an achievement.

From May the Barbican is staging an exhibition of 400 of the Bauhaus’s works, the first in Britain on this scale for 44 years. It will stress the breadth of its output, including paintings by Paul Klee and László Moholy-Nagy, furniture by Marcel Breuer, textiles by Gunta Stölzl, architecture by Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, photography, film, ceramics, theatre, graphics and product design. It promises to portray the central ideal of the Bauhaus, “to change society in the aftermath of the first world war”, as the Barbican puts it, and “to find a new way of living”.

When Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919 it was with these aspirations for a new life, and for a multiplicity of creative disciplines, together with a stress on the importance of making things as opposed to just theorising about them. But there was not yet a distinct form or direction to these ideas, and almost anything could be considered as a route to a better future, including new spiritualist religions and a strict vegetarian diet which had to be livened up with plenty of garlic. According to Gropius’s spectacular wife Alma, whose other husbands and lovers included Gustav Mahler, Oskar Kokoschka and the writer Franz Werfel, the most distinctive feature of the Bauhaus in its early days was garlic on the breath.

Certain questions were unresolved and intensely debated. Was craft or mass production more important? Could art and manufacturing be reconciled? Did individual expression impede service to society? In 1925 the school moved to Dessau, between Berlin and Leipzig. At the time it was an industrial boom town, the base of the Junkers aeroplane company. The harder-edged, more technocratic arguments started to prevail. The young Marcel Breuer started collaborating with Junkers on making tubular steel furniture of a kind that would eventually become commonplace in boardrooms and forward-thinking homes. Greater attention was paid to the commercial development and marketing of Bauhaus-designed objects.

In Dessau they built, in the extraordinarily short time of one year, the Gropius-designed building that became as famous as the institution it served. With its glass curtain walls and spare rectilinear forms, it crystallised what would become the dominant type of modernist architecture. It was one of the most prodigiously influential buildings of all time, a prototype that would be followed by office buildings, hotels, schools and hospitals in almost any country you can think of. In Dessau, Gropius and his followers could also try out other architectural ideas on the row of houses built for Bauhaus masters, and on 300 low-cost houses built for industrial workers on the Dessau-Torten estate.

In 1932, however, the school moved on again, to Berlin. The next year it fell victim to the National Socialists – another movement that, after the catastrophic trauma of the first world war, sought a new order and expressed itself through memorable visual imagery. Junkers started making Stuka divebombers, not Breuer chairs, and Dessau was all but flattened by bombing in 1945. The Bauhaus building was severely damaged, and only recently has been fully restored. But its influence spread. The Bauhausler diaspora, of ex-students and teachers building in the style they had learned, extended to Tel Aviv and Tokyo. Gropius migrated via London to the United States, where he became a professor at Harvard and designed the Pan Am building above New York’s Grand Central station, much disliked for the way it imposed on the view down Park Avenue. He also designed the Playboy Club in London, prompting a new generation of radicals to denounce him for selling out.

To visit the Bauhaus building now is to be struck again by the extraordinary way in which a single construction in a provincial town could have had so much effect. It is also to see nuances that, inevitably, imitators lost. For years the Bauhaus building was known to the wider world mostly through a few black-and-white photographs that stress its more easily copied details, but miss the point that it was a framework for the creative energy of the school. Its stairs, workshops and balconies were places of display as well as function, and its glass walls made a spectacle of its internal activities. One of the key spaces was an auditorium whose stage is connected to the communal canteen, thereby bringing together performance and life. It also has a subtle colour scheme, contrary to Wolfe’s assertions that the Bauhaus was only interested in black, white and grey. If it looked like a factory it also had properties of a commune, a cult centre and a theatre.

Although it was founded by Gropius, architecture was not at first the main point of the Bauhaus, and its vast legacy extends from graphics through product design to art. But architecture came to dominate the public image of the place, and the style of the building proved easier to record than the events that happened there. What Wolfe and Ulbricht railed against was its impact on the built environment. Which, if you only look at its form and not at its content, does indeed look sterile. Hopefully, the Barbican show will put this misconception right.

As for Alma, she tired of the work ethic of her husband and his school. At least if Tom Lehrer is to believed. As “Alma”, his tribute to her, has it:

But he would work late at the Bauhaus,

And only came home now and then.

She said, “What am I running? A chow house?

It’s time to change partners again.”

Scaling models through design

A tremendous deal of time is spent on the initial innovation of the product. Much thought should be given to how organisations can scale using innovative models.

This video explores:

  1. Scaling through distributed manufacturing,
  2. Scaling from transaction to collaboration,
  3. Scaling through new behaviours/new markets,
  4. From centralized scale to decentralised scale,
  5. Solving for the system,
  6. Scaling through trust – brand building,

 

Building a weather station

Open Data Durban in partnership with The MakerSpace Foundation hosted International Open Data Day in a dual-charged effort to ignite openness and participation in the Durban community. Together with environmentalists, ecologists, data wranglers, techies and active citizens we built an Arduino weather station. According to Arduino.cc “Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software.”

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How did we promote diversity in the day?

On arrival participants had to select different coloured stickers of what they thought represented their interest and skill set, choosing either a data wrangler; a maker; an environmentalist; techie and more importantly learners.  The latter being an obvious choice to Mondli, Nolwazi and Nosipho three learners from Umkhumbane Secondary School, located in Chesterville, a township on the periphery of Durban CBD. We invited the learners as part of our data club’s programme, where learners will also be building an Arduino weather station which will be rolling out soon.

It was essential that the teams were made up of each of the skill sets above to: ensure the project speaks to the broader theme of informed decision-making through the micro-weather station data; assisting participants assemble electronics; make sure the IoT device is programmed through code; to gain critical environmental insights towards practical use of the tool and more importantly to enable and create a guild of new-age active citizens and evangelists of open knowledge.

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Each team was provided with an Arduino weather kit consisting of dust, gas, temperature and rainfall sensors and all other relevant components to build the weather station. We did not provide the teams with step by step instructions for the build. Instead, we challenged them to google search the build instructions and figure out the steps. Within minutes, the teams were busy scouring the instructions from various websites such as Instructables. This emphasised the openness of sharing knowledge and introduced the learners to open knowledge and how someone from another place in the world can share their expertises with you.

What were some of the insights from the environmentalists?

Bruce and Lee, both retired ecologist and environmentalist respectively were charming in their approach to problem-solving and tinkering with the electronic parts. Although not well-versed in the Arduino toolkit their gallant efforts saw them learning and later tutoring the learners on building the weather station.

Their insights into the environmental status of Durban was unmatched and painted a grim picture of the Durban community’s awareness of the problems that exist.

What were some of the insights from the techies?

Often at our events, we have a number of techies come in who are brilliant at coding but have no concept of data science or how coding can be used to address various issues such as economic, social and environmental. This event helped to introduce techies to how coding Arduino boards and sensors can be used to gather weather condition data and further use to data to monitor the weather conditions in a given area. This data then allows the public to be aware of their weather conditions such as the concentrations of harmful gases in the air. The city can also map out pollution hotspots and identify trends which aid in decision making to eliminate or manage the air quality.

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How did the learners participate in the session? What were some of their learnings?

There were many different languages spoken by the participants which made communication across all groups a challenge however the confidence and enthusiastic wanting to learn prompted the learners to ask some captivating questions for the group members more notably in their pursuit of understanding how things work in the space.

All the attendees were attempting to build the Arduino weather for the first time. The adult attendees were quite hesitant at first to share what they were doing with the learners because they were not certain if what they were doing was correct or not and did not want to confuse the learners. Once the adult attendees were confident with the method of building, they then began to communicate more with the learners.

Outcomes of the day

We eventually saw one complete weather station built by Sphe Shandu who stayed behind after some team members tinkered with other goods in the MakerSpace, minus the LCD component (no team figured this out).

Learnings

  1. Lend an extra hand to students that engage with maker spaces for the first time in an urban setting, they have a natural innate understanding of the moving parts (3D printers, laser cutter, electronics etc) in the MakerSpace and not necessarily the context of new-age manufacturing, practicality and potential outputs.
  2. After lunch, the teams became quite weary. Progress dived down but the teams managed to pull through and complete as much as they could. Long events tend to be vigorous at the beginning and hit a stall towards the end. A possible lesson learnt is to host much shorter events.
  3. Teachers need to be incentivised to attend the programme outside formal school learning.
  4. Parents prove to be the most difficult stakeholders to engage – although involved in their children’s learning they need to be engaged to attend such functions.
  5. Attendance for community events on Saturday are most difficult to rally large numbers.