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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014
 

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Video: Engineering a difference


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Engineering professor Winston (Wolé) Soboyejo discusses his camel solar refrigerator project, which may improve vaccine delivery in remote areas of Kenya and Ethiopia. Read more.


Video Closed Captions

(drums)

Wole Soboyejo:
So the idea of the solar refrigerator came from a

Wole Soboyejo:
discussion I had with a group at the Mpala clinic,

Wole Soboyejo:
which is a community-based clinic in Kenya that focuses on

Wole Soboyejo:
doing community medicine vaccinations for people in

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Laikipia District -- a place where there really isn't much.

Wole Soboyejo:
And if you could put this into context, it's a place that's

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about the size of Wales, where kids would not get vaccinated

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unless they had these camels that take vaccines to very remote

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places that you couldn't access by Land Rover.

Wole Soboyejo:
The clinic is one of hope.

Wole Soboyejo:
It's a clinic that provides services to about 312,000

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people. In the absence of that clinic,

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the kids would not be vaccinated, and basically access

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to community-based medicine would be absent.

Wole Soboyejo:
Right now, there are daily vaccine losses during the missions.

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So once they open up the

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vaccines they have an ice pack and they lose the rest of the

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materials unless they are able to maintain the temperatures.

Wole Soboyejo:
So consequently we're talking about a poor country with

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limited resources where there are these daily losses of vaccines

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in the absence of solar-powered cooling.

Wole Soboyejo:
So, my design goals were fairly simple.

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So these are seven-day missions in which the community medical

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people go out first on Land Rover and then on camels with

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these camel groups.

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And I wanted to have a system where the energy that you could store

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in the batteries and the energy that you could replenish

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through daily exposure to the sun would guarantee that the

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refrigerators would always have power.

Wole Soboyejo:
When we started the project, we thought about various concepts.

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Ultimately, we came up with a very simple idea of just an

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inclined structure that allows you to orient the solar panels

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with respect to the sun and hence optimize the solar

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collection. Now we are in the process of

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making that in bamboo, which we think will be the

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optimum in terms of weight, aesthetics and the ability of

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the local people to maintain this.

Wole Soboyejo:
A key component of this though was testing them out at the

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Bronx Zoo. Working with camels actually

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presents interesting challenges.

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There was a story I heard of -- the head of the group at the

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Bronx Zoo, I guess, one day upset one of the camels and the

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camel decided to pick him up by his head.

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So this kind of thing means you have got to be careful.

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You have got to recognize that these animals have real feelings.

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And you have to design systems that integrate with them.

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You know the camel has got a funny shape.

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It's got a torso. You have to figure how to fit around that.

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It's got a hump. And although we thought we had

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measured the hump, we found out that different camels have

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different hump sizes. You have to integrate along

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different torsos. And so the real ingenuity

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actually happened once we put the design concept into contact

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with the camels at the Bronx Zoo. So our goal, really,

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beyond the implementation in one model for Mpala, would really

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be to diffuse these across, not just based on aid but with an

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approach that empowers the local people, in Africa,

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in the Middle East, in places where people are not

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necessarily able to afford health care to use the

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production of these as a way of sustaining the livelihood of

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people in those communities.

Wole Soboyejo:
You know, I think our role in universities such as Princeton

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is to embrace the grand challenges of our time.

Wole Soboyejo:
We, I think, should be leaders in this rather than just

Wole Soboyejo:
following the whims of projects that don't make an impact in the world.

(music)

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