Sunday, August 24, 2008

MIT's guru of low-tech engineering saves the world on $2 a day

The simplest technology on display in Compone creates the biggest stir. It's a thick, tapered plastic ring, lined with ridges, that [Amy] Smith picked up in Zambia. She gathers the villagers around a colorful wool blanket piled high with dried corn on the cob. Women here spend many hours painfully prying kernels off cobs with their fingers. Smith inserts an unshelled ear into the ring and twists. The ridges in the ring dig into the cob, popping dozens of kernels with every motion. Faces brighten, and a few women unconsciously rub the joints of their thumbs...
"A small improvement like that can make a huge difference in people's lives," Smith tells me. "It might mean they can plant three extra rows of corn because they have more time, or maybe their kids don't work as much, and instead they go to school."

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