E/ME 105 Design for the Developing World
To learn how a product for the rural poor should be developed, we actually build that product - at least to the prototype stage. By doing this for one application, students learn how to build other products because the processes at the highest level are similar. This class was suggested by the Student Club, “Engineers for a Sustainable World” (ESW). With their help, a modification of my Product Design Class was accomplished. They have continued as my partner in the design and execution of this class. The idea was to re-orient the curricula to target building products for the 1 billion+ people in the world who earn less than the equivalent of a dollar a day. In addition to an extreme focus on cost and usefulness, we tried to design products that not only were environmentally sustainable but also economically viable. These products would solve a need so powerful that sufficient funds could be generated to build a sustainable business by entrepreneurs in the rural community. We decided to initially concentrate on Guatemala, benefiting from the strong Guatemalan community in LA. Our partners were faculty and students from University Landivar in Guatemala City and Art Center College of Design. We greatly appreciated the collaboration of Luz Marina Delgado, Brian Rasnow, Ovidio Morales, Steve Montgomery (ArtCenter). The Course moved in (2010) to Kerala, India to St Gits working with Professors, Dr Jason Cherian Isaac, Thomas Varghese and Mathew Vinay John as welcoming partners and in 2013 to IIT Ghandinar for 2 years. We subsequently returned home to LA as Design for Freedom from Disability.

The course included cases, my lectures on product design, and guest experts. All lectures were video teleconferenced between campuses. Each team had Guatemalan students (then Indian students) as members. Thus, we are able to obtain ground truth to each Team’s ideas on a continuous basis. The Art Center School of Design in Pasadena has also been a close partner. We made pre-trips to partner counties each year prior to the beginning of the course  for students to generate ideas, and to bond with partner universities and their students.

The most successful spin-out from the class to date is the wheelchair project. Here the students cannibalized bicycles to make a wheelchair. The result was low cost and easy repairability and ergonomic design. From this effort came a non-profit: Intelligent Mobility International(IMI) led by then student and now Entrepreneur, Rudy Roy. Before and after graduating Caltech students have raised funds, hired employees in Guatemala, and incorporated. Although the numbers are still small, over 300 wheelchairs were built and distributed in Guatemala by Guatemalans. The design has been modified several times in E/ME classes as new information on its use is obtained. The Team has won several awards including a “Breakthrough Award” from Popular Mechanics. At the meeting last month of the National Collegiate Innovators and Inventors Association (NCIIA), they exhibited their latest version wheelchair at an exhibit in the Smithsonian. They placed second in a Social Ventures LA competition run with many entries. There are other students doing independent study, working in the area of clean water – both solar distillation and point-of-use filtration.
E/ME/MedE 105 Design for Freedom From Disability
This is a course focused on aiding people with disabilities through understanding of Medical, Engineering, Human and Business contexts. It was performed in collaboration with our partners,  Rancho los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, (Andy Lin),  Art Center School of Design (Jefferey Higashi)  and many others who mentored, inspired, lectured and assisted. Rancho has an amazing group of people who live with disabilities or work with people to help them live their lives. They collaborated with student teams to test and critique the results.

Volunteers who lectured and inspired included Rudy Roy, Erik Sorto, Kathleen Shanfield, Diana Ugalde, Jan Furamasu, Amanda Van Dusen, Henry Evans, Jim Chud, Nora Ames, Andy Downard, Mark Fuglevand, Drora Shevy,  Dmitrii Estrin, Hymie Pogir, Barbara Beskind and many others!

Some projects include: Wheelchair for patients with hemiplegia, pressure ulcer prevention system, 3D printer prosthesis, open source eye-tracking software.

Some of these results were presented at the “Abilities and Aging ” conferences in LA.

For the Annual Meetings of RESNA (The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Center), a student competition was held to choose papers to be presented. Caltech student teams from the class applied for the expense-paid visits to the meetings in Washington and New Orleans. In total, there were 80-100 submissions from many universities. Of these, there were six chosen winners each year that we competed. Caltech teams won with two teams in one year (2016) and one team the next (2017)!

These were the Caltech winners:

The final papers are available upon request.

In 2017 six papers were written on:
In 2018 two papers were written on: