Monday, January 11, 2010

detailed update !

hello loyal readers,

for those interested, here is a more detailed entry on what we've been doing thus far in india (for the rest, enjoy additional photos!):

our team left boston last tuesday to arrive in delhi wednesday evening (long flight + 10.5 hours ahead ).

our january in india will be generally split up as follows:
  • boston -> newark -> delhi -> kolkata
  • 1.5 weeks in kolkata staying with our community partner suprio das and his wonderful family
  • 1 week in guwahati, which is in the state of assam (east of bangladesh )
  • back to kolkata to continue meeting with local groups + work with dlab cycle ventures on developing the pedal powered cell phone charger
  • then back home kolkata->delhi -> newark -> boston
our team consists of [view prior entry for a family photo of us!:

jessica: our team leader who has worked in honduras, ghana, ecuador (including the galapagos islands) and the list goes on . she graduated from berkeley with a bachelors in civil engineering and business... and now we call her mom even though she's only has 2 years on us.

gwyn: is one of the instructors of a development lab course focusing on pedal power appropriate technologies. he's leading his own class currently also in india but we're going to reunite with him in guwahati. he's the dad of the family.

now, the children: adam, brooke, tina. we're all seniors at mit studying civil engineering+urban planning, civil & environmental engineering, materials science and engineering respectfully.

there was a lot of waiting time in terms of getting to india. we're listening to a learn hindi software in the newark airport...

for our 1 day in delhi we (the cycle ventures team, our team, and another team comprised of graduate students) met with the national government's ministry of science and technology for a discussion regarding how to go about promoting and supporting innovation--specifically we discussed solar power assisted rickshaws

a photo of gwyn and dr. sarmah talking with the individuals of the ministry.

afterwards, dr. sarmah generously treated all of us to a home cooked meal at his home.
here is a photo of dr. sarmah (orange sweater) and his 2 children

next morning, we left early to catch our flight to kolkata (calcutta). our plane ended up being delayed for several hours. ironically, we almost missed our flight because we got caught up reading the alchemist as a team (which we later discussed on the plane as our first makeshift book club session). pictured above, we are intensely focusing for our game of spades ( a game adam taught us the rules of/made up).

here are the victors of the game with their prize: ice cream.

at the kolkata airport, uncle suprio (our community partner that we've been communicating with and working with throughout the semester) greeted us at the airport. we were met by the busy streets of kolkata defined by their distinct yellow cabs.

also, another common scenes: cows + garbage

a shot of a street in the 'suburb' of kolkata where uncle suprio lives and where we are staying.

this is our comfortable home, complete with mosquito nets. yes, we all feel like princesses sleeping under them. brooke is busy preparing our field notebooks.

one of the first NGOs that we visited was SEED--an organization that works to educate, rehabilitate, and also house abandoned children/orphaned children/etc. we met to see if the organization was a viable NGO to form a partnership or relationship with MIT d-lab for future projects.

pictured above are several girls in the girls home.

next we traveled to the location of the boys home to see the accommodations and structure.

here we are meeting some of the young boys.

mr. alam--the founder of SEED-- took us also to see the slum area that he works with specifically.

this is a seed location within the slums. (baby in the back is being sunned)

seed specifically targets the slum region. an organization we are meeting with tomorrow--called the kolkata samaritans--works specifically with those living on the streets. (2 images above)

sunday morning, uncle suprio surprised us by obtaining a rickshaw that we could test ourselves. one of our projects deals with a pedal powered cell phone charger and a general goal we have is to improve the design of the rickshaw.

here, brooke is taking adam and me for a ride.

jess is taking a ride now...brooke is running in order to capture the rickshaw on film.

a photo of us examining the rickshaw structure to better understand the design and also consider the methods of how to disassemble and bring a rickshaw back to mit.

uncle suprio took us to see an artisan community. we were very impressed at how quickly and intricately they made these goddess statues for the upcoming hindu holiday.

we also visited a jain temple nearby (3 pictures above). jainism is one of the many religions that started in india.

enjoying/purchasing some snacks.

here are some photos (above 2) where we are testing out the water testing kits we brought. this wednesday we'll be traveling to a village to show water testing methods (specifically for e-coli and arsenic).

we also visited the local metal/rubber/polymer working shop to get some quotes on polymer injection molded cases.

we also visited a repairman (working on the repair of a refrigerator).

here is a picture of some indian sweets--

one idea that was thought of was finding some purpose for the abundant hyacinth in india (notorious for being a dangerous invasive specie) we collected some by the lake...

to bring back to dry. the goal is to figure out quick drying methods and carbon content for the possibility of making charcoal briquettes from the organic waste.

so that's the update for now!

things to come:
  • visiting / meeting with calcutta samaritans --a local ngo that works to support and help those living on the streets
  • visiting/ meeting with an organization for women that provide them with income generating work such as paper bag making
  • trip to the village for water testing
  • bernard arrives from tanzania to lead the cell phone charger project


mit d-lab india team


  1. Why are you guys bringing a rickshaw back to MIT? Just weld one together at MITERS!

  2. Hi!

    My name is Apeksha Dave. I’m a current sophomore at MIT.

    So in the summer before freshman year, I started this website AdoptBuildChange (ABC) is focused on India’s rural development with the goal of providing a database for rural development projects. Essentially, ABC is going to develop into a forum for new projects and ideas that can develop and feed off each other.

    I started ABC when I realized that there are many organizations and individual projects that are trying to achieve similar goals but are unaware of the related work that is being done. As a result, I hope that ABC, as sort of an open forum/encyclopedia, can allow projects to make a larger, more sustainable impact.

    Over the semester, I didn’t have a chance to upload new projects to the website once I got the initial website online. However, now, over the summer I am recruiting new projects for the website.

    Your work in India is making a very positive impact and I would like to profile it on ABC’s website so that people interested in doing similar work can easily see what you’re doing and get involved with you or use inspiration from your work for their own projects. If you could profile your current project and/or past projects, that would be very helpful. Please email me at so I can send you the project proposal form. I would like to get your project online on before the end of the summer.


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