Design that Matters, Inc.

Country: United States
Region of Impact: Global

Project Overview:

Design that Matters is building a worldwide system that enables the citizen sector, university students, and businesses to jointly innovate for social change. They create products and services to meet the needs of underserved communities, in such areas as clean water, renewable energy and health care. Recent clients have included Malian educators seeking better teaching tools for rural classrooms and Bangladeshi doctors seeking improved medical devices for cholera treatment.

Problem Addressed:

One in five adults worldwide do not know how to read. In parts of Africa and Asia, up to 75% of the adult population is illiterate. The problem of illiteracy rises not from a lack of interest in education, but rather from a lack of resources--specifically access to books and lighting. The vast majority of these adult students must work during the day so they take classes at night, reading by lanterns and flashlights in villages without electricity. Many tools favored by educators, such as visual aids designed for the entire class to view at the same time, are of little use in a nighttime classroom. Teachers are required to carry the visual aid and a lantern around the room from student to student, interrupting the flow of the lesson. In classrooms without visual aids, teachers are required to write the lesson text on poor-quality blackboards.

Technology Solution:

The Kinkajou Projector combines state-of-the-art light-emitting diodes (LEDs), low-cost plastic optics and microfilm to produce a durable, low-cost educational tool for rural communities in developing countries. Optimized for nighttime use in classrooms without electricity, the Kinkajou can project an image or a page of text from microfilm up to three meters across onto practically any flat surface. Up to 10,000 pages can fit on a single spool of microfilm for $12--easily accommodating an entire reference library. The design requires no tools more complicated than pocket change for maintenance, and includes a battery, charge controller and solar panel for off-grid use.

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