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    Entries in stanford d. school (2)

    Tuesday
    Jul152014

    A Match Made in... Myanmar

     

    In the eye of the brain-storm. Photo courtesy of the Stanford d.school.

    These days, our design lab is filled with the sounds of running water and the clacking of robots testing pumps as our d-team puts the finishing touches on a breakthrough irrigation product we’ll be launching in September.  We’re working with Stanford’s Institute of Design on this project, and will soon be joined by two graduates for the summer. Andreas and Evram are the latest in a long list of talented individuals who’ve joined the Proximity Design team as the result of an ongoing, eight year long partnership with Stanford’s d.school. 

    In 2005, the Stanford d.school began offering a course called “Design for Extreme Affordability,” that challenged graduate students to develop well-designed products and services for the world’s most disadvantaged people. We embraced the course early on as one of its first ‘clients.’ At the time, foot-pumps were available in India and parts of Africa for over $100, and we needed to drastically reduce this price tag if our products were going to be affordable for Myanmar’s farmers. The first challenge we posed to a Stanford team was to create a pump for $25. The rest, as they say, is history.

    The entrance to the d.school and all things design-related. Photo courtesy of the Stanford d.school

    Over the course of eight years, Stanford teams have been instrumental in developing key products. It was a Stanford team that first drew inspiration from kiddy pools and suggested we design a freestanding water storage basket, which six years later became our “Sturdy Boy” water tank. It was a Stanford team that proposed the award-winning tri-pod frame structure that we ended up using in our HB4 pump, which in addition to completely re-thinking the structure of existing treadle pumps, also reduced its price to $25. Not only does Stanford have fast prototyping abilities that allow teams to make a lot of progress very quickly, the creativity of their students is constantly motivating us to push the envelope. Human-centered design is now at the core of what we do, due in part to the contagious innovative thinking of the d.school folks.

    Luckily for us, the love is mutual. David Beach, co-instructor of the “Design for Extreme Affordability” course, explains, “Proximity is an amazing organization… For us, the fact that they have experience on the ground, deep insight…that they are involved at the highest levels of crafting a path forward for Myanmar as a country…. They couldn’t be better partners.”

    In addition to making us blush, Beach does point to some of the factors that make our partnership with Stanford’s d.school a truly symbiotic exchange. Strong partnerships, grow, evolve, and endure, and we can’t wait to see what breakthrough, innovative products our work with the d.school will bring to rural Myanmar. 

    A Stanford team member out in the field

     

    Wednesday
    Jul112012

    59 Days to Launch: Up the Man Power

    The clock is ticking. Nine design interns and fellows are on board with us this monsoon to get ready for the new product launches on September 8th. Manpower, check. Brainpower, check. Here you go. Meet the team!

    JASON THU

    Tell us a little bit about yourself.

    I’m Jason Thu, and I'm an economics student at Reed College, Portland, Oregon.

    What is your role at Proximity?

    I’m working with the Communications team. I’ve been writing for the blog and the upcoming website and I’m also involved with the Proximity ‘brand refresh’ team which is creating a unified look and message across all our products and services. For this project, I do some copywriting and translating, and I research the tastes of our customers.

     What do you like the most about the office?

    The work environment and colleagues! The office is pretty relaxing and my colleagues are very friendly. There is a good flow of interaction between teams as well as individuals. I also really like the fact that Proximity is a social enterprise that uses for-profit business practices to run a humanitarian venture and create a powerful social impact.

    Tell us something we don’t know about you.

    I played drums last year for Minisvin (Mini-pig), my Russian dorm band. We play Russian rock music from the 80s!

    THI DAR NWE

    How would you describe yourself?

    My name is Thi Dar Nwe, a final year Development Studies and Southeast Asian Studies student at the a School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. This is my 4th summer interning at Proximity, so I guess you could call me a “veteran intern”.

    What projects are you undertaking right now?

    I'm currently working with the Human Resources team and I’m helping with the planning of The Proximity School 2012, the annual staff development training which will run for a month in August. We’re really busy with this project as it’s so soon but when I have some spare time I like helping out all the other teams and finding out what they’re up to.

    What do you like about the office?

    Working here gives me the opportunity to meet lots of very different kinds of people – students studying abroad, Burmese and foreign professionals, field staff, and customers. I always learn something from each of them.

    So you have interned in Proximity for a few times now. Can you give us a memorable story in your Proximity career?

    The most memorable one would be from last year. I was in the paddy fields for the first time with the media team and we were shooting some footage of the paddy farmers. It was raining and muddy and my shoes kept getting stuck in the mud, so I just took them off and started walking barefoot. It was something that I've never experienced before and I liked it a lot!

    EVA HOFFMAN
     

    What do you do here at Proximity?

    I’m working with the manufacturing team on the water basket project. We’re going to launch a new product this season so we’re finalizing the last elements of the design, and setting up our manufacturing processes so we can produce these affordably and at scale.

    What are you up to apart from Proximity Designs?

    I am currently pursuing an MS in Mechanical Engineering Design at Stanford. I studied Human Biology as an undergrad, which is when I developed an interest in international health and development.

    Why Proximity?

     I’ve wanted to work with Proximity since I was introduced to them through Stanford’s “Design for Extreme Affordability” program. I love the business model, products, and the impact Proximity has in Myanmar – it’s really exciting to be part of such an influential organization at such a critical time.

    What are your interests beside design?

    My other interests are biology and environmental conservation, and I’ve held a couple of field biology jobs around the world – from catching sharks on remote Pacific islands to trapping rats (and the occasional poisonous snake) for a disease ecology project in rural Kenya.

    MINN HTET KHINE

    An introduction in 30 seconds? Go!

    I am Minn Htet Khine and I am a rising sophomore at Duke University. I intend to major in Economics and Political Science. I enjoy playing basketball, soccer and making or watching films.

    What do you do as an intern?

    I am in the Knowledge and Impact Team and we spend a lot of time talking to customers, conducting surveys, and finding out the social and economic impact Proximity has on our customers. I'm currently involved with the solar light customer satisfaction survey, and a follow up survey on the drip system users.

    How do you like Proximity so far?

    I really like it. I feel like my work is actually having some sort of impact on the customers. Being able to visit the field and meet our customers brings a whole new level of meaning to the work we do in the office.

    So have you been on a trip?

    I have. I went to Pyapon, Dedaye, and Kungyangone with the Impact team. Some of the villages we visited were so remote that they required hours of travel on motorcycles and boats. They were places I could never have got to on my own.

    Tell us something about you that we do not know.

    I used to be in the Under 15 National Sailing Team. I spent an enormous amount of time sailing back then. I've represented the country in around 5 tournaments from 2004-2006.

    TAIEI HARIMOTO

    How would describe yourself, Taiei?

    I've lived in a bunch of places so I don't really know where home is. My mom says home's where food tastes best. Since I'm on that topic, I should also mention that I love food. Both cooking and eating, but especially eating. And I have two life goals. One is to raise a family. Two is to heli-ski in Russia.

    What do you do here?

    I'm a design fellow working on the P3 project (Plastic Pressure Pump). I'm working closely with local and expat designers on finalizing the design for the launch this September. It will be cheaper, stronger, and better than the current metal pressure pump!

    What is your favorite thing about Proximity?

    My favorite thing is the cross-cultural exchanges – over food, over design, over everything. I also love the brainstorming sessions we have. I wouldn't be able to describe a valve or angle bar in Myanmar. But through sketches we're all speaking the same language.

    What motivated you to come to Proximity Designs?

    I wanted to be doing really good design work, and also be involved in something that helps people who need it most. Unfortunately, in many places the two are mutually exclusive. With Proximity's world-class design team making products that empower rural farmers, I don't have to compromise between the two.

    ZIGMUND SUN OO

    What's your job at Proximity, Ziggy?
    I am a Media and Communications Fellow. I am currently doing some research on rural marketing and graphic design. I also work pretty closely with Sai Woone Seng on brand tuning of Yetagon and Proximity.

    What is your life beyond Proximity?

    I am currently an Arts Technology graduate student at Illinois State University and have finished my bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design at Illinois Wesleyan University.

    What do you do when you are not at work?

    If I’m not at work, I usually rock out on the guitars or the drums when I jam with my friends. We’re not really a band or anything. We just fool around and improvise for hours. The best part is to getting lost in the music and just let your hands and ears do the work.

    What attracted you to Proximity?

    I heard that a lot of the research people  get to go out to the field often to conduct research, I just thought it’d be a great fit for me because I’ve always been interested in research-oriented design.

    What’s been the most fun so far?

    Playing Chin Lon  (traditional ball game) with the FAS team in Bogalay. These guys are good! I mean they’re super good. They’re also kind of amazing at their jobs and the relationships they have with the farmers they work with are so special. It’s more like family than a customer/staff relationship.

    THET HEIN TUN

    A self-intrduction?

    I am studying civil engineering and comparative humanities in Bucknell University. I have finished my third year and have 2 more years to go.

    What do you do here at Proximity?

    At Proximity, I am a Water Basket team intern. I have teamed up with different people in the Lab to make water baskets, to design the rim of it, and to build the fixture to test the water basket outlets.

    Can you name some highlights in your internship so far?

    Getting to know people, building stuff, observing how people build things, and making my own personal markers.

    Why did you choose Proximity?

    I want to apply my engineering knowledge, at the same time trying to understand my role as a person with cross-cultural experience.

    THAZIN

    Where and what are studying, Thazin?

    I am a rising sophomore at Stanford University. I have not made my mind on a major. But it will be an awesome major that will convince me it is best major ever.

    What tasks do you do as an intern?

    I am in the P3 Pump team. I mainly work with SolidWorks, a design software, to make drawings for vendors, and I also help updating other information in the spreadsheet. Recently, I've been helping Alissa Murphy, my team leader, set up the new life-testing system for the P3 as well.

    What do you do after work?

    I go out with my friends in Myanmar both from Proximity and otherwise, play with my dog, watch TV, sleep, sleep, and sleep some more. These are things that Ia can't do much when I was at Stanford. I also want to play badminton, but I haven't be able to do that recently.

    What do you like about Proximity Designs?

    The fact that even though I am an intern, I feel like a real engineer whose input is valuable. I also love working in the machine shop when I'm free.

    AUNG NAING OO

    Will you start with telling a little bit about yourself?

    My name is Aung Naing Oo and I am currently an intern at Production team. I am going to be a third year mechanical engineering student at Imperial College, London in October.

    What is your role in the Production team?

    My role in the Production team is to assist increasing the productivity in the manufacturing processes, hence adding customer value. I am testing the re-designed version of the foot pump MT4 whether this new model would be suitable for mass production.

    How do you spend your time when you are not working?

    When I am free, I love playing basketball, football and hiking. They can help me reduce stress and keep me fit. I'm also involved in a student-lead NGO called "Spreading Smiles," that raises health awareness in underprivileged children in monastic schools and orphanages.

    How did you know about Proximity Designs?

    I first heard about Proximity from my friend Dexter, who was an intern last year. I was impressed that Proximity is a non-profit social enterprise that produces life-changing products for rural families in Myanmar. I wish to learn new skills and make a contribution in innovation for development, so I ended up applying for an internship at Proximity this year.

    Something quirky about working in the lab?

    Going on a ferry to the workshop every morning is an awesome experience. During the ride, my colleagues come up with all sorts of jokes to kill boredom, and the laughter always make my day bright!