Summary of Ideas Fair Projects
Innovation on a Connecticut cattle farm, turning manure into moola!
Improving medical emergency services
The complexity of construction
Taking confusion out of recycling
|Fresh Meadows Farm
Vertically integrated cranberry farming
|MIT Cogen Plant
Working in a cogen plant, it's a mess!
|America's Test Kitchen
|Clover Food Lab
Cleaning and composting
|Brookline High School
Can adaptive PE be extreme?
|MIT, Boston, and Cambridge Police
Equipment to make things safe
|Grand Ten Distilling
Heavy work in a small space
CowPots is an invention of necessity.
Nutrient management is a challenge for animal agriculture, all around the world. One of the primary nutrients that farmers must manage is phosphorous. Phosphorous is a nutrient mined in Florida and shipped to the Midwest in the form of fertilizer to grow many crops, including those needed to make grain. In the case of our dairy farm, that grain is shipped to the northeast to feed our cows to make milk and beef. In the process of producing these 2 important food products, phosphorous passes through the cow as feed and remains on our farm in the form of manure. Manure makes great fertilizer to grow the crops on our farm. However, the problem on many farms is that the level of phosphorous applied as fertilizer can easily surpass what the crops need. When those nutrients are in excess, it becomes a pollutant.
Since 1972 when the Clean Water Act was passed by Congress, American farmers have been working to find ways to more sustainably manage these nutrients. Increasing the number of acres farmed, selling compost, recycling manure for bedding cow stalls are common practices on dairy farms today to meet the challenge. On our farm, we wanted a way to export the nutrients to places where they can benefit the soil. This is where CowPots comes in. After a decade of trial and error, we developed a value added product using cow manure to form a biodegradable, plantable pots for seed starting and growing plants.
The job of an EMT can be rough, tough, and messy. EMT’s respond to emergencies with minimal information about the situation, they must be ready at all times for anything. On any given shift an EMT can act as a medical professional, supply quartermaster, communications operator, technical writer, heavy lifter, and bodily fluid dodger. The emergency medical services field that is ripe for innovation. Areas that can be improved include the improving transportation of patients to and from the ambulance, advancing cumbersome emergency medical records, simplifying management of an extremely large inventory of supplies, speeding communication, and improving a countless number of medical devices. Potential goals for innovation include improving patient outcomes, protecting the responding crew, and improving the efficiency of operations.
All construction projects are complicated. Organizing workers and deliveries present unique challenges and there are hundreds of decisions and activities and issues every day. While there must be an overriding focus on safety, both for the project participants and the public, issues of design, schedule, quality and budget must be considered and integrated. Working in an urban setting presents challenges which are compounded at MIT due to the 24/7 research, teaching, learning and living aspects of campus life.
Dick Amster, director of Campus Construction in the department of Facilities and Travis Wanat, senior project manager leading the MIT.nano project will discuss the challenges of organizing the day-to-day activities of (approximately) 100 projects as well as the complexity of nano.
Earthworm, Inc. is a small nonprofit organization that collects office wastes (paper, cardboard, glass/plastics/metals and e-waste) from businesses in the Boston area. The organization aims to offer service to businesses that large commercial recyclers tend to avoid. As a result, many of Earthworm’s 700 plus customers are small businesses (25 employees or less) that are clustered in dense, hard to access business districts such as Newbury Street, the Leather District/Chinatown and Davis Square/Somerville. This presents the organization with the challenges of overcoming parking, access and storage issues. As part of demonstrating that small scale recycling is, nevertheless, a viable enterprise, the nonprofit organization relies only on the revenue from its collection operation. Meanwhile, many of Earthworm’s customers are new to recycling (small start-ups) so effectively communicating what can and cannot be recycled is very important. This is especially true since all of the recyclables that are collected, are ultimately a feedstock for manufacturing processes that require material to be free of contaminants. Varying rules for recycling between home and the workplace, as well as misleading recycling symbols on packaging, can make recycling confusing. And when combined with a limited attention span for reading signs, contamination is an additional huge challenge for Earthworm.
Fresh Meadows Farm is a small organic cranberry producer here in Massachusetts. Over the past few years, we have been the largest supplier of fresh locally grown organic cranberries to local consumers. I believe our future sustainability depends upon our ability to maintain full vertical integration. As we continue to grow, we are facing increasing challenges with our ability to sort the volume of fruit in our small facility. I believe that more efficiencies can be squeezed out of our sorting process. I will walk you through the sorting process from the time the berries arrive from the harvest until they exit as USDA Grade A quality, ready for the consumer. We can dissect the berries’ journey over bounce boards, tilt belts, and sorting tables in an effort to locate potential improvements.
Right now, the cookware industry is at the crossroads of figuring out just how mobile technology can work in the kitchen. There’s a rush to stick an app on every appliance, but more often than not, those apps just turn out to be glorified timers. Until technology can eliminate the need for the user to measure, move, stir, flip, and physically transport the food, apps for cooking are going to have limited use. Apps should make it easier to use the product, not add complications or steps, or become a toy rather than a tool. They should provide added value to a solid product, not be an end in themselves. And the product should be able to work independently of the app, because nobody has perfect connectivity yet. For instance, smart scales should still have a display on the scale, so you don't need to fire up the app just to weigh an apple. Smart slow cookers should still have a countdown timer, in case you're walking by and want to know how many hours till dinner. And of course, people want to be able to use their own recipes, so apps should be easy for the user to customize. Our challenge to you is to create a core kitchen gadget with digital technology that adds value. Maybe it’s a sous vide machine or slow cooker that can keep food at a safe temperature before you initiate cooking via an app (so you can fill it in the morning, but delay the start time for cooking so the food’s ready when you get home), or an automated pot stirrer that you can control from your phone, or a smart cutting board that has features like a builtin scale or lights that guide you through whatever cut you need (provided it’s still washable, since cutting boards can harbor harmful bacteria!). It should be something the average person would want to stock in their home kitchen, and it should add significant value over the triedandtrue versions of this product.
Caryn is an adaptive health and fitness teacher at Brookline High School. Her students have a wide range of disabilities, both physical and mental, and Caryn works to develop creative ways to give her students fun fitness experiences. It's always a challenge to give her most extreme students the thrill and excitement that other students could get from sports such as downhill skiing or rock climbing. She's interested in ways to make these extreme sports available to her students.
Equipment to make things safe
GrandTen withdrew from the idea fair shortly before the event.