Tag: Critical Infrastructure

Elad Orian, Co-founder of Comet-ME

Elad Orian, Co-founder of Comet-ME

Elad Orian, Co-founder of Comet-ME

We here at Isaac’s Science Blog are pleased to be hosting our sixth professional interview, this time with Elad Orian! Elad is the co-founder of Comet-ME, an Israeli-Palestinian organization providing renewable energy and clean water services to off-grid communities in some of the most marginalized parts of the Palestinian Territories using environmentally and socially sustainable methods.

1. Tell us about yourself and your educational/professional background.

I studied physics and later environmental science/policy. I’ve been doing my current work for 10 years now.

2. What inspired you to work in energy?

I’m a political activist along with my partner (Noam Dotan). We started thinking about something more proactive and using our abilities and know-how and energy was a very natural conclusion

3. Why did you help found Comet-ME

We actually started doing this type of work before we officially established Comet. It just so happened that these activities were relatively successful and grew really fast to the point that we needed an organization/framework that can handle this. As a result, Comet-ME was born.

4. Tell us about some of the challenges that of the Palestinian residents that you worked with.

We work with Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank. In the Oslo accords the West Bank was divided into three areas (A under control of the Palestinian Authority, B under Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control, and C, which happens to be the majority of West Bank under control of the Israeli government). We work in an area where the Palestinian Authority cannot provide electricity/water to communities. There are communities in A/B that have no electricity but we made a strategic decision to not replace the position Palestinian Authority.

5. What does the life-cycle of an average project look like?

One of the first things we do is to build trust with the community. We know what we do and why we do it, but the people we work with need proof. It is important that we go into a community when we know that we have the funding. We are lucky to have so many long-term donors trust us so when we start a project/budget cycle we don’t know where we are going to work because we need to do a survey of the community, conditions of each place, and then we do a detailed design of system and then we will purchase all the equipment that is required. There are some long-lead items so we do work in houses of the villagers and then once we have everything we install it. Once the installation is finished the hard work is started when service is provided. Because Comet is about providing service and we make sure service is running for a long period of time. In this way, we are like a utility. Every system brings service.

6. What technology does Comet-ME use to help communities establish energy independence?

We always use solar systems. Sometimes wind/diesel hybrids. Our systems can be designed to work from 1 family up to 40/50 families.

7. Tell us about your water program

After a few years of working exclusively with electricity, we decided that we had the organizational capacity to do something else. This is a very different program since many of them already have water, just not enough. Our system is a pump attached to a filter to obtain clean water, it’s a simple single-family system that collects rainwater and pumps it. We developed a system that pumps and filters rainwater using electricity when the batteries are full. There is also a stewardship component where water quality is sampled from all the users on a regular sample schedule to make sure systems are doing what they are meant to do.

8. Is Comet-ME looking at the Water-Energy Nexus and if so how is it?

Very much. Our water systems are dependent on our electricity systems for operation.

9. Have you received any interest from universities on the work that you do?

We have some collaborations with some universities. We also have a few students that have written master’s degrees with us. We don’t do much advertisement so we’re not really a household name.

10. Is Comet-ME looking at how to deal with climate change resilience?

Although we don’t title it, our work is directly tied with climate resilience due to providing an independent source of energy

11. How do you see your organization fit into a long-term Israeli-Palestinian peace partnership?

If there is a peace agreement signed and the West Bank becomes a Palestinian state then we would gladly hand over systems to a Palestinian organization to handle it. I don’t think it would be a problem.

12. Do you think that the Comet-ME model has any application outside of the Palestinian territories?

There are many components that certainly are and some that are idiosyncratic to conditions/politics of the West Bank.

13. What can someone do to help out with your organization?

One can always donate money, also if you’re technically inclined and interested in such issues we do have volunteers from time to time. Feel free to reach out and join us!

Conclusion

So there you have it! Elad, we are very grateful for giving us your time to talk about this very important work. Your organization’s work is a textbook example of how people can apply their scientific knowledge to make the world a better place.

 

If you would like to connect with Elad and Come-ME, you can find their website here and their facebook page here.

 

Image credit DW.com

How Prefabricated Buildings Can Help Solve the Housing Crisis

How Prefabricated Buildings Can Help Solve the Housing Crisis

How Prefabricated Buildings Can Help Solve the Housing Crisis

08/25/19

“How can we help stop the global housing crisis using a new type of construction?”

The world is going through an unprecedented change. Economic, political, and climate forces are driving more and more people to live in cities each day. However, as these urban areas are growing, the cost of living in them is growing even faster. Much of this results from an under-supply of affordable housing exacerbated by slow-moving construction and lack of political will. One thing that can help solve this is to find methods that speed up construction. One possible solution involves the use of prefabricated buildings, which can cut down construction costs and time drastically. This is How Prefabricated Buildings Can Help Solve the Housing Crisis.

Image credit https://www.raconteur.net

Pierce Gordon, Innovation Catalyst and Design Researcher in Botswana

Pierce Gordon, Innovation Catalyst and Design Researcher in Botswana

Pierce Gordon, Innovation Catalyst and Design Researcher in Botswana

We here at Isaac’s Science Blog are pleased to be hosting our fifth interview with the one and only Pierce Gordon! Pierce is currently working in international development assisting the nation of Botswana. Pierce holds a PhD in Energy and Resources from the University of California Berkeley, a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a  bachelor’s degree in Applied Physics from Morehouse College. He is currently in the Southern African Nation of Botswana working in International Development.

1. Tell us about yourself.

I consider myself a person who is trying to do good to the world. I have been extremely lucky to have worked and received the accolades that I have to make the connections that I am apart of to have the experiences that I have had and in doing so I am trying to find the best opportunities to spread love and do interesting things. 

I guess I can start of my childhood. I have been through a life of constant transition in many different places and many different disciplines because with what I have been offered I wanted to make sure that I can gain the experience to work on the problems that truly matter to me. I initially started with studying Aerospace Engineering to become an astronaut and obtain a PhD. I was first at Morehouse College under the dual degree engineering plan, and later transferred to the University of Michigan to complete my undergraduate studies. Although I was grateful to learn how engineers think, I knew it wasn’t for me. I decided instead to learn about the politics of International Development and Global Poverty since those topics resonated with me at the time. I wanted something that was historically informed and involved people who I aimed to help.

2. What inspired you to work in Development?

It started with a lack of inspiration in Aerospace Engineering. I was sitting in propulsion class and learning how jet engines increase the pressure of incoming air and I just realized I really didn’t care. I went on a dark and lonely path to find out what I did care about. I especially knew that in order to get a PhD you needed to work on something that fascinates you.

I watched the daily show when Jon Stewart was on and it was 9 months out in the Haiti Earthquake and 1.2 billion dollars which was supposed to go to the nation was diverted. I then realized I needed to do something. I partnered with a colleague and realized that I needed to help folks that needed to be helped. I then applied for a program that applied this interdisciplinarity to issues that mattered, and actively searched for projects that were not just novel or rigorously studied, but could represent tangible impact in the communities that I wanted to assist. I worked with a lot of communities but the one with Botswana happened to be my dissertation which is why I am here right now. 

3. Tell us about your professional background

Well, I have never taken a break from school. Over 12 years, I acquired four degrees. While in school I have actively looked for many opportunities. 5 research internships at NIST, MIT, NASA Glenn, Morehouse College, and the University of Michigan. Also, my final internship was with GM where I worked in the Corvette plant. During graduate school, I knew that I had the time to research design innovation in the Bay Area. I founded an organization called Reflex Design Collective to worked on Equity Design in the Bay, and we found some other folks and turned into a loose collective of equity designers all over the US that share, understand, and navigate to put tools of design, systems thinking to fight systemic oppression of all forms and ensure that people from these marginalized communities are empowered to use the design tools available. 

4. What did you do for your PhD research?

My PhD work on investigating innovation practice which was about creating the world to be better and applying it for international development.

Dissertations usually have three separated research contributions. Mine were:

  1. Systematic Literature Review of Human Centered Design for Development
  2. Ethnographic Evaluation Study of Botswana Innovation Community (how Botswana research institutions are they trying to shift the economy of the nation and how do they define success)
  3. A reflection of ethics institutions in supporting practicing innovators in Botswana. 

6. What inspires you about your field?

It is filled with practical dreamers. 

The purpose of design as a field is to try to understand our world and what it is. The point behind design work is trying to understand who we are and how do we shape the world that we live in. It is a trans-discipline that takes from all disciplines to create the world we are in today. It is inspiring to see so many people in this space to understand the problems in this world and trying to develop tangible ways forward.

7. Why did you pick UC Berkeley?

My program offered freedom. When you are trying to go to a PhD, you should not look for the school, but the program. Specifically, for a PhD, you should look for specific individuals that you will learn from and build upon. The Energy and Resources Group is a program that focuses on interdisciplinarity in its best form. It was founded by individuals in the Early 70s that realized global problems are transdisciplinary. This program gave me the ability to learn about International Development and Design when I had no experience and combine fields in unique ways that other PhDs could not. I think it is critical to find people to work within disciplines and to brings people together.

8. What are some fellowships you’ve received during graduate studies?

Many. Since I became an adult I have always applied for funding, upwards of 300 individual scholarships. I started with the NSF GRFP, the Ford Predoctoral Fellowship, and the Berkeley Chancellor’s Award. I also obtained the INFWS fellowship which allowed me to travel and present at different places. The reality is that I was able to obtain a large amount of funding from being a really good students and being an engineer but later on it became more difficult as my work became more narrow, interdisciplinary, and not conventionally defined. Unfortunately, funding does not take into account people who have not had continual success and the concept of “failing-forward” and a lot of times the funding is used to support the mission of the organizations which sponsor it. 

9. What caused you to shift from engineering to development?

I needed work with a soul. The work that I was doing in Aerospace so far separated from people that I couldn’t stand it. 

10. New sites/podcasts you listen to?

Podcasts:

99% invisible

The Bodega Boys

The Read

I also read a lot of Design sites, especially newsletters on Medium.

11. Favorite thing about working in International Development?

People at many stages of Int. Development have chosen a job that requires them to make them perpetually empathetic with everyone they are in contact with and how to address this systematic and historical problems of poverty. 

12. Least favorite things about this space or would like to see improved?

People in these fields need to understand their limits and understand where their limits lie. A lot of people who work here believe in silver bullets. There are no perfect methods or solutions or people or understanding the limits of what we can do and what we need to do is see what people can accomplish with limited resources. 

13. What should someone do to work in this space?

Find some mentors that you want to connect with and try to work with them. If you’re in international development I would say you learn about the history of the field. A lot of people don’t and just want “to do good” but make large mistakes. These people need to learn the value of doing good work locally. Find people who have worked in this field at whatever school you’re at and really try to learn from them.

14. What are the benefits of a Ph.D. over a Masters?

The point of a PhD is to learn research and trying to generate new knowledge. When I got my final signature, my advisor told me that a PhD is a passport. It is to be an expert in a very small piece of the world of knowledge. Noone can take it away from you.

Though it depends on the program, a Master’s likely will most likely allow people to make more money and get into the workforce faster.

15. If you were to go back and change one thing in your career what would you do?

I would not change anything. I have made every career decision I made and anything people consider a mistake I am happy to say that I have learned from them. 

16. What is your five-year plan?

I don’t have one right now and keep blooming where I’m planted and learn and bloom as much as I can outside of academia and use it where I sit. 

Conclusion

So there you have it! Pierce, it was a great pleasure to learn about your story, and we wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors. Your work and personal background is one of a kind and we’ll make sure to keep an eye on you. If you would like to connect with Pierce, you can find his LinkedIn right here

Why Renewable Energy would be a Great Investment for Indonesia

Why Renewable Energy would be a Great Investment for Indonesia

Why Renewable Energy would be a Great Investment for Indonesia

09/18/18

“Why should Indonesia invest more in renewable energy?”

 

Indonesia is a nation whose size is only matched by its diversity. An archipelago comprising of 17,000 islands with over 242 million people speaking over 300 different languages, it truly is a behemoth to behold. Currently, Indonesia generates around 84% of its energy from fossil fuel resources. But increasing its portfolio of renewable energy could be greatly beneficial to it.

 

 

  1. Ideal Climate for Renewable Energy

 

Being a chain of islands near the equator in the Southern Pacific Ocean, Indonesia has a great opportunity to tap into solar and offshore wind energy.

 

  1. Distribution

Since Indonesia is composed of a series of islands which are subject to typhoons, having a more distributed energy mix would be very helpful. Islands can generate their own electricity, microgrids can kick on during storms (something that would also be helpful to places with similar geography like Puerto Rico)

 

  1. Lower Pollution

Air pollution causes a myriad of public health problems which dampen the national economy. By switching to renewable energy this issue can be averted.

 

And these are just some of the reasons why Indonesia should switch to Renewable Energy!

 

Resilience Inputs

Resilience Inputs

Resilience Inputs

07/28/18

“What are the building blocks of Resilience?”

 

With the ever-changing climate, critical infrastructure systems are going to have to become more resilient. To develop this, engineers and policymakers have developed a series of metrics to quantify the resilience of such systems. The most fundamental of which is the Resiliency Inputs to a system. Inputs are the like the bones of a skeleton. Although they compose the physical structure, on their own they are ineffective. Examples of Resilience Inputs in energy systems are budgets, equipment, spare parts, and personnel to support recovery operations.