This class helps developing-world solutions reach people in need
By Eillie Anzilotti
A fleet of rapid-response motorcycles, rigged up to transport pregnant women in labor through a remote community in Paraguay, does not sound like the typical tech startup to emerge out of a Stanford University course.
But in the 15 years it’s been offered, Design for Extreme Affordability, a course cohosted by the university’s design, business, and engineering schools, has guided students to design products and innovations that directly address specific challenges faced in the developing world, and potentially bring them to market.
Medicarro, the motorcycle transit project, was one of 10 that the 40 students in the course brought about this year. Teams also worked together to devise Fire & Ice, a solar-powered refrigerator that small shopkeepers in Uganda can use to keep drinks cool and earn additional income; Cleankit, a training and education kit that surgical staff can use to ensure tools and equipment are up to hygienic standards; and Los Tres Nanos, a low-cost medical tool that will help physicians in the developing world more accurately monitor and correct cleft palate and other orthodontic issues. A now well-known innovation that came out of 2012’s course is Embrace, an innovative, no-power sleeping bag for newborns that, without incubators, are at risk of dying of hypothermia in hospitals. By 2016, over 200,000 babies had benefited from the innovation.