EC.701J | Fall 2009 | Undergraduate

D-Lab I: Development


Working in small teams, students complete a sequence of eight group project assignments, culminating in a final presentation and report on the country and projects for the IAP field trip.

Prior Year Projects

The prior year’s D-Lab: Development class (2008) worked on the following projects. Many of these projects have been worked on for several years, with incremental improvements and innovations by each year’s class.

Bicilavadora Pedal-powered washing machine
Biodigester workshop Community workshop on how to install a plastic bag biogas generator to produce methane for cooking and fertilizer for farming
Ceramic water filters Prototypical ceramic water filters using local clay and materials found near New Longoro, Gomboi and Dwere (Ghana)
Charcoal technology demonstration How to make charcoal out of agricultural waste using an oil drum and readily available starch
Drip irrigation kits Technology demonstration for the $2 drip irrigation kits from International Development Enterprises (IDE)
Hand-held corn sheller A practical, economical hand-held corn sheller to quickly and easily remove corn kernels from the ear
Hand-powered walnut cracker Adaptation of the Universal Nut Sheller from the Full Belly project to crack walnuts
Low-cost bacterial water testing Simple low-cost method for testing bacterial (fecal) contamination in community water sources
Portable solar cooker Portable solar parabolic concentrator designed with nomadic peoples of the high-altitude regions of central Tibet
Rural energy usage database Quantitative monitoring mechanism for the implementation of energy alternatives in the Himalayan region

Group Assignments

Group Assignment 1: Agricultural Project Assessment

As a group, your team will research the agricultural situation in your country so that you understand the physical as well as the political and economic environment that affect farmers in your partner community. Identify the key crops that are grown, and investigate the types of equipment used to process them. Determine what government policies affect farmers, what the markets are like (both physical as well as theoretical) and other issues that affect what farmers choose to grow or raise. You should also investigate the division of labor based on gender and other social and cultural issues. Based on your research, outline some potential projects that you might work on at your site. Your team will present your findings in a short report (about 5 pages).

Group Assignment 2: Post-Harvest Processing

Your team will be given a sample of an agricultural product to process (either peanuts to be shelled or corn to be shelled or ground). As a group, you will process the product in three different ways and measure the quality of the output and the throughput rate. In addition, each team member should write a paragraph to reflect upon their experience. You may feel free to include pictures and graphs as part of the assignment. Turn in one report per group.

Group Assignment 3: Making Charcoal

As a group, your team will make a small batch of charcoal briquettes. You will find the equipment you need (pots, pans, spoons, graters cassava, carbonized material, charcoal crusher and briquette makers) in the D-Lab room. In order to make binder, use a 1:10 ratio (by volume) of grated cassava to boiling water. You will need about 250 ml of binder to make your briquettes (and about 250 g of crushed charcoal). Be sure that you allow enough time for the briquettes to dry before turning them in. You can dry them in the sun or leave them in the fume hood in the lab. Please be sure to clean up the lab when you are finished. Turn in your briquettes in a well-labeled, sealed bag.

Group Assignment 4: Village Energy Assessment

Assignment description (PDF)

Village profiles (PDF)

Group Assignment 5: Water Testing Worksheet

Assignment description (PDF)

Please complete this in your country groups, and submit one completed worksheet per group.

Group Assignment 6: Water Testing Materials List

As a team, think about the possible water projects that you will be doing and what sort of testing will be involved in these projects. Start to prepare a list of the supplies that you will need for the tests you need to perform. Create a list on your D-Lab Team wiki. Make sure that you discuss this during your country team meeting during the week of Ses #24-26, and finish the list by the end of that week.

Group Assignment 7: Country Team Presentations

Each team has 7 minutes to present the projects on which you will work during the IAP field trips. The purpose of this presentation is to promote collaboration between groups that may be working on the same projects. It also will give the course staff a chance to see your team’s progress toward successful projects this January.

Though it is not required, if you have any experiments or prototypes to present, please bring them along. Not everyone in your team need present. If it makes sense, you may, if you like, choose one or two people to present for your team.

Group Assignment 8: Final Posters and Presentations

First of all, each team has 7 minutes to present, we will be strict about this time limit, so be sure you practice in advance and work out the timing. Second, we will be grading each presentation in the following way:

Context and background 15%
Description of projects 30%
Use of presentation aids (PPT, prototypes, pictures) 15%
Presentation style and quality 20%
Overall coordination of presentation 10%
Presentation completed within allotted time 10%

Student Project Work

The following files are presented courtesy of the students and used with permission.

China (PDF)

Design workshop


Ecuador (PDF)

Drip irrigation, rainwater catchment, hydroponics, artisan project, IIH MEDIK, Scratch


Ghana (PDF - 1.3 MB)

Shea nut oil press, clay collection, well drilling


India: Kolkata (PDF - 1.9MB)

Pedal-powered cell phone charger, charcoal from water hyacinth, drip irrigation, NGO evaluations, rickshaw bank, SEED education workshop, water testing


India: Ranikhet & Avani (PDF)

Charcoal and stove, sanitation and hygiene, first aid lesson, solar dryer, solar latern


Peru (PDF)

Cookstoves, latrines


Rwanda (PDF)



Tanzania (PDF)

Water harvesting, secondary school workshop


Zambia (PDF)

Corn shelling, charcoal making, Disacare wheelchair workshop, IDE drip irrigation, Peace Corps workshop


Course Info

Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Projects with Examples
Activity Assignments
Written Assignments with Examples