Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Problem - Solution - Impact

The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California, has a project: The Tech Awards, described as "an international awards program that honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity."

What is particularly interesting about the innovations awarded is that the format of information is problem-solution-impact. This is how I have my students focus not only on the respective merits of innovations in their field, but also something to consider in their own projects - including the one they choose for their bachelor thesis.

Innovations are most useful when they solve a real-life problem and have a beneficial impact on the most people. The criteria to be met for The Tech Awards are:
  • The project addresses a problem that is well defined and globally significant and uses innovative technology in one of five categories: Environment, Education, Young Innovator (born in 1988 or later), Health, or Economic Development.
  • The technology and application are ground-breaking and stand out from existing solutions.
  • The innovation is being used in the field and is measurably impactful.
  • The organization's annual budget must be less than US$50 million.
  • The technology application is in the field and has demonstrated a measurable benefit.

The Tech Awards website: http://thetechawards.thetech.org/

The categories and the 2014 awards:

Intel Environment Award
  • Inventive Power*
  • Source International
Microsoft Education Award
  • Gooru
  • Worldreader
Katherine M. Swanson Young Innovator Award
  • Nanoly
  • PAK-Energy Solution
Nokia Health Award
  • Gradian Health Systems
  • Operation ASHA
Flextronics Economic Development Award
  • myAgro
  • Sanergy

The website has information about each winning innovation, and each has an accompanying video (many in a language other than English, but with English subtitles).

*An example of the problem-solution-impact format from the website: Inventive Power (video is 2:21 - in Spanish with English subtitles):

Problem: Many industries need thermal energy provided by hot water or steam for their processes. Natural gas is the most common fuel source for generating industrial thermal energy, but many Latin American countries don't have widespread natural gas distribution systems. Both natural gas and a common alternative, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), are fossil fuels whose combustion generates CO2, contributing to global climate change.

Solution: Inventive Power stripped down the parabolic trough solar thermal energy collector design used to generate high temperature steam for electrical power production. Their streamlined system is smaller and lighter, but generates water and steam temperatures of 180-400°F, which is more than adequate for most industrial thermal processes. The system can fit on the roof of most industrial facilities, and reduces fossil fuel consumption by up to 80%.

Impact: Inventive Power systems have been installed at numerous sites throughout Mexico. For the average customer, an installed system will reduce LPG consumption by more than 50,000 tons over the next 5 years - saving millions of dollars - and reduce CO2 emissions by over 130,000 tons over the same period.

This is certainly a good format for students to use when writing a text - or giving a presentation - that analyzes innovations. And there are many more good models on The Tech Awards website.

No comments:

Post a Comment