Junkyard Automata: Disaster Preparedness 2019

Junkyard Automata: Disaster Preparedness

Saba Ghole
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Extreme circumstances are often the impetus for innovation. After the fall of the USSR, Cuba lost nearly 80% of its imports due to the trade embargo, leading to a surge in hacked consumer electronics and home appliances. During the Great Depression, patterns were printed on bags of flour and feed, encouraging people to repurpose the fabric for dresses or dolls. In 2017, Venezuelans protesting governmental corruption combatted tear gas attacks with respirators made of plastic water bottles. These examples show our ability to create new solutions, even when we don’t have the right tool for the job.

In this studio, students will create devices, interventions, machines, robots and technologies that will help mitigate the fallout after a large natural disaster. These inventions will  serve responders, aid workers, local residents, governmental officials, refugee populations, the elderly, or other groups impacted by the disaster. As part of the studio, students will interview professionals working in disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, including experts from MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. As part of the constraints of working in a post-disaster context, students will examine post-disaster debri and scraps, upcycled electronics, and alternate opportunities to convert waste into resource. Following design research, students will use their creativity and resourcefulness to design, engineer and build prototypes for these life-saving devices.

Using the power of digital design (computer aided drafting, 3D modeling) rapid prototyping tools (laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC milling), and microprocessor electronics combined with discarded materials, students will build tools, robots and other devices as part of their disaster relief interventions.


Focus Skills/Subjects/Technologies:


   Industrial Design

     Interaction Design

   Physics (Electricity, Magnetism)




   Robotics (Arduino, Sensors, Actuators)

   Digital Fabrication (Laser-cutting, 3d Printing)

   3d Modeling


  • Enrolling students must be between the ages of 14 to 18 (or grades 9-12)