This IPRO section is focused to identifying opportunities for new products, services or business models that address global challenges. These challenges may be those articulated by various international or philanthropic organizations, or identified by students or faculty based on their insights or personal experiences. A particular area of focus is to address the needs of developing countries and the world’s poor, but there may be other broad global issues that affect other regions and populations. Programs and organizations that offer perspectives on global challenges include the UN Millennium Project, MEDLIFE, International Development Enterprises (IDE) (http://www.ideorg.org), Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), etc. Global challenge topics may also surface through other venues at IIT, including the Armour College of Engineering themes (health, energy, water, security), Institute of Design workshops, other IPRO team projects, other IIT colleges, etc.
The Global Challenges IPRO section will establish a robust agenda of opportunity areas for student exploration and application of user-centered design methods. One broad area of investigation relates to developing extremely affordable products that can serve the rural poor of the world. The significant challenge facing our global society is to address the needs of the two billion poor in the world who live on less than $3.00 per day and 1 billion of these live on less than $1.00 per day. These two billion suffer from many deficiencies including contaminated water or lack of sufficient water, inadequate shelter and lack of access to affordable and sustainable energy for cooking, heating and other lifesaving and enriching uses like lighting and communications.
It is important that an agenda be developed that broadly offers a good fit between what is needed by the rural poor in developing countries or other global challenge areas, and what our students and faculty can focus on based on our expertise and capabilities and that can create value. In general, the multiple multidisciplinary IPRO teams that are organized through this Global Challenges IPRO section will develop a deep understanding of a particular user need and opportunity through user-centered design methods. This will lead to identifying creative, simple and appropriate solutions that are extremely affordable and can be considered for local manufacture and supply.
The experience of the teams each semester in tackling a specific need and opportunity will help to build an archive of information and experience that can inform future teams about how to identify, select and develop a continuous stream of extremely affordable product concepts over multiple years. This IPRO team therefore will create a legacy of service for the rural poor of the world and the global community at-large through a sustaining IPRO project that future generations of IIT students can participate in.
Members of the team from various disciplines will also learn to use design methods, testing processes and economic and technical review processes to ensure that our solutions have the right cost structure and performance reliability and provide an appropriate solution. Members of the team will also develop their ability to learn and apply good project management practices to mobilize both team and external collaborator resources. Ethical issues arise often in working with and researching the needs and behaviors associated with people in developing countries, and dealing with these ethical issues is a part of participating in this IPRO.