One problem, Ghandi says, was the design of the cooler's antenna. "You couldn't tell what was wrong by looking at it," he says, "but it wouldn't work in certain parts of Ethiopia." Finally, after switching to a different type of antenna and devising some tricks to make up for unexpected gaps in the system (such as the lack of a built-in timestamp on Ethiopian text messages), they were able to get a reliable device up and running.
That's par for the course for such projects, Gmez-Mrquez says. "You want, during the first trip, for a lot of things to go wrong," he says. "That's why you go over there." The key thing for this project was enlisting local users to try out a new system under real-world conditions. "We found amazing engineers" at the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology, he says, who "did an enormous amount of work" to help get the system working.
These local engineers, in fact, were delighted to have the chance to work on such a project, which they could see was something that could be built and maintained within the country. Young says one of them told her, looking at an expensive MRI machine in the local hospital, "Nobody I know will ever use this." By contrast, he said of the new cooler, "This is something I can actually see being used by people I know."
|Contact: Caroline McCall|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology