Tuesday, January 22, 2008
"Innovate or Die"...then what?
Sometimes I feel like we're all doomed and sometimes I uncover evidence to refute that sentiment.
The Innovate or Die contest sponsored by Specialized Bikes and Google challenged avid cyclists to come up with new ways to use bikes that would benefit the world. In total there were a whopping 102 teams that submitted their "pedal powered inventions" for critique. Entries were scrutinized on their creativity, environmental impact and design. In the end, only one creation was crowned the grand prize winner, but everyone truly comes out on top when the purpose of the event is to fashion designs that are environmentally friendly.
I now submit for your approval the grand prize winner of the Innovate or Die Contest: The Aquaduct.
(The videos of other finalists can be seen on the Innovate or Die contest websiet as well.)
The genius of this contraption is the ability to filter water while riding and, by switching a level, water can be filtered with the bike in a stationary position as well. Using firewood and other fuels to purify water, as is commonly done in much of the developing world, leads to serious patterns of environmental degradation. When trees are used as fuel then the nearby soil is more prone to erosion and soil quality is lowered, decreasing the agricultural yields that make up a significant portion of the livelihoods of people in those places. By lowering the demand for fuel to purify water, efforts to sustains existing forests will be more successful and pure water can be used for cooking and consumption much quicker and easier.
Ideas like this are fun and interesting, but rarely are they produced on a large scale that would actually have some impact. The goal of the contest should not be to see what kinds of designs we can come up with, but to see how much those designs can accomplish in real world settings. Then we'd really be cruising.