Keynotes & Talks

Keynote Speaker: Raj Madhavan
Talk Title:
“Bringing Robotics to the People: Technology-Public Policy Considerations for Societal Good”
Talk Abstract:
Many of the existing Robotics & Automation (R&A) technologies are at a sufficient level of maturity and are widely accepted by the academic (and to a lesser extent by the industrial) community after having undergone the scientific rigor and peer reviews that accompany such works. I believe that most of the past and current research and development efforts in robotics and automation have been squarely aimed at increasing the Standard of Living (SoL) in developed economies where housing, running water, transportation, schools, access to healthcare, to name a few, are taken for granted. Humanitarian R&A, on the other hand, can be taken to mean technologies that can make a fundamental difference in people’s lives by alleviating their suffering in times of need, such as during natural or man-made disasters or in pockets of the population where the most basic needs of humanity are not met, thus improving their Quality of Life (QoL) and not just SoL. My current work focuses on the applied use of robotics and automation technologies for the benefit of under-served and under-developed communities by working closely with them to develop solutions that showcase the effectiveness of R&A solutions in domains that strike a chord with the beneficiaries. This is made possible by bringing together researchers, practitioners from industry, academia, local governments, and various entities such as the IEEE Robotics Automation Society’s Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (RAS-SIGHT), NGOs, and NPOs across the globe. I will share some of my efforts and thoughts on challenges that need to be taken into consideration including sustainability of developed solutions and underlying public policy issues.
Keynote Speaker: Silvia Figueira
Talk Title:
"Humanitarian Frugal Innovation"
Talk Abstract:
Frugal Innovation is the process of solving problems with less resources, and humanitarian frugal innovation focuses on the needs and contexts of consumers in impoverished communities. In this talk, we will discuss how the School of Engineering at Santa Clara University has been using frugal innovation to create humanitarian solutions for poverty alleviation and disaster relief. Following the guidelines proposed by the Frugal Innovation Core Competencies, students have been working on projects in various areas, usually helping a social enterprise or non-profit organization that serves an impoverished area. The main areas in which we have been working are global health, mobile computing, sustainable energy, thermal solutions, and building materials.
Speaker: John Barrie
Talk Title:
“Mayan Power and Light”
Talk Abstract:
Over 1.6 billion people live without access to electricity. They use candles and oil lamps to see at night, living much like our ancestors lived in the dark ages. Mayan Power and Light is a social venture that teaches young Mayan women about electricity, circuits, and solar power, and incubates woman owned solar businesses in Guatemala. In 2016 the MPL program helped over 10,000 people out of the dark ages and into the 21st century by providing affordable solar power and light. Now rural Guatemalan families can see at night for the first time. Women create handicrafts to sell in the market, children do their homework by bright LED light, and families can charge cell phones. Mayan Power and Light is recognized as a global top 100 sustainable enterprise by Sustainia and the United Nations Compact for Sustainable Development.
Speaker: Grace Hsia
Talk Title:
“Making Impact in Two Worlds: Technology Development for Resource-Scarce Settings and Technology Diversification into the Developed World”
Talk Abstract:
As technologists, engineers, and scientists, we have the ability to build solutions that make considerable global impact in resource-scarce settings. Often though we find ourselves posed with a dilemma: 1) make a technologically positive impact on a large social issue but face sustainability/fundability challenges OR 2) make something technologically advanced with the ability to make money but not as much social impact. The Warmilu team has now taken a non-electric warming technology developed for a resource-scarce medical environment and diversified its applications to developed US markets (including stadium seat warming and outdoor recreation). Grace Hsia, CEO, will dive into ideation and technology development strategies, market diversification strategies, and challenge technologists to identify paths for sustainability and fundability earlier in the solution development process. As technologists with limited time and considerable funding constraints, this talk is going to dive into making an impact in both the resource-scarce and developed world markets.
Speaker: Adithya Jayakumar
Talk Title:
“Design for 90: Engaging Students to Design for the Other 90%”
Talk Abstract:
The name “Design for 90”, comes from the fact that 90 percent of the world’s engineers and designers design for just 10 percent of the world’s population, leaving the other 90 percent without the many benefits of human centric design. This group of students aims to design for this “other” 90 percent. The group consists of predominantly undergraduate students from from the Freshman to Senior level who volunteer their time to create tools and products for typically underserved populations such as people with disabilities and people who are homeless. They are supervised and mentored by both faculty in the university and professionals from the organizations that the group works with. The reason for this interdisciplinary partnership is not just to help the most vulnerable in our community but to provide an opportunity for students to use their technical, design, documentation, and leadership skills they learn in the classroom and put it to practice in the real world. In addition, and most importantly, it also ensures that students see the value and joys of humanitarian engineering and learn lifelong values of empathy and paying it forward. Based on what has observed by monitoring the progress of this group since 2015, a case can be made that more universities should consider setting up similar groups or projects which engage undergraduate students and bring them into the humanitarian engineering loop.
Speaker: Mary Anne Walker
Talk Title:
“Resources, Networks & Best Practices: Implementing Your Ideas on a Global Scale”
Talk Abstract:
The Global Engineering Office at Michigan State University supports faculty, students and visiting scholars as they develop enhanced research collaborations, academic programming, and grow networks to strengthen partnerships. Our engineers are advancing knowledge and transforming lives as they engage with partners around the world. MSU scientists are working on sustainable energy research, environmental and water solutions, engineering design challenges and next generation cyber technologies that lead developments in academic, public sector and private corporate advances. MSU team ideation draws upon the university’s core strengths, while envisioning new ways to catalyze global platforms for education and scholarship. Using data-driven analytics to allocate resources and track outcomes, we improve decision making processes. MSU is investing in a new generation of globally engaged faculty and students with mentoring and skill development. Collaborative research and applied learning opportunities form the basis for interdisciplinary global partnerships centered around problem-solving. Humanitarian engineering engagements support growing human-centered design solutions that meet local needs with appropriate supply-chains to sustain efforts. Examples include: STEM computing camps in Rwanda supported by industry, installation of tippy-tap, rainwater catchment systems and solar roofing efforts in Tanzania, composting toilets in El Salvador and Bean Thresher technologies deployed in Zambia. MSU engineers are networked to lead field-based projects often returning more enriched from their exchanges. This legacy of internationalization and a collective aspiration for continued innovation are catalyzing campus-wide initiatives to design, test and deploy new approaches for enhancing global engagement, particularly in the context of global grand challenges.
Speaker: Adam Lyman
Talk Title:
“Rethinking Design for Social Innovation: Stories from the Field”
Talk Abstract:
As engineers, and highly educated individuals from a developed country, there is no doubt that we have the potential to leverage our unique knowledge and expertise to make a considerable impact in the world. But, converting this knowledge potential into real, sustainable impact is a difficult task. Humanitarian Engineering problems are unique, in that they combine social development with engineering. Social development problems alone are wicked problems. Combining them with engineering adds a level of complexity to an already wicked problem. Humanitarian Engineering problems require different methodologies and problem-solving approaches to arrive at truly sustainable solutions that create impact. So, how does one go about engaging in humanitarian engineering problems in an impactful, meaningful, and sustainable way? What methods, and best practices should be used? “Engaging stakeholders,” and “human-centered design,” are popular answers to those questions. But what does that really mean, and what are the specific ways to go about doing this? And most importantly, does it work? There is no single answer to these questions, making the successful execution of Humanitarian Engineering projects difficult, and non-efficient. Adam Lyman, a development professional and graduate student, will tell the story of his journey in humanitarian engineering, seeking answers to these questions. As an engineer who has spent the past three years on the front lines of a wicked design problem, Lyman will use his personal experiences to share insights, discuss lessons learned, and best practices developed to meaningfully engage in humanitarian engineering projects that have real impacts.
Speaker: Emily Sullivan
Talk Title:
“Hard to Compete with Free”
Talk Abstract:
Most foreign aid comes from a companionate heart; however, it is a million-dollar business that pumps and dumps clothes, food, and money into third world counties without consulting the people receiving the products. This process has been going on for decades and it has a negative effect on the communities receiving this aid. This is why the third world countries not had any dramatic change into becoming successful and stable. The Global Poverty Industry has not produced the correct environment for people to rise out of poverty, but in fact, they have created a system where people are losing businesses and independence. Most people in poverty are willing to work extremely hard to support their family by becoming financially stable. Unfortunately, small, local businesses cannot compete with free western aid; therefore, many of the businesses go under, leaving the communities in a worse condition than before. There needs to be a dramatic change on how to support the people in developing countries.