STUDIO UNITE – Alice Minsoo Chun
1.6 billion people in the world without electricity
The Solar Puff is an inflatable foldable balloon that is designed based on an origami paper balloon. The Puff takes one puff of air to inflate; the 6 LED lights can illuminate the room at night for 6-8 hours via the bladder of the Puff.
STUDIO UNITE Alice Min Soo Chun Laura Briggs Irene Brisson Quinn Lewis (my 7yr old son) All my students over the past 20 years of teaching
How lovely to have something so necessary be aesthetically pleasing to boot. These are Red Cross emergency kit worthy. So much possibility for underserved areas and disaster sites! Elegant and functional; simple, useful, and delightful.
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
I have traveled to Haiti and Nigeria and witnessed many people, thousands of people using kerosene cups and lighting them on fire for use at night because there was no grid in many of these regions. In areas of extreme poverty it is critical to let the children learn school work but they cannot afford the batteries or the fuel for the kerosene, money that could be better spent to feed their children, pay for school, or books, On average The cost of the fuel is sometimes 30% of a person's income. I have seen children coughing and trying to do homework with these kerosene lamps; or out on a street corner reading from street lights. Every child should have the ability to have a light at night. Foldability and low cost is critical as the ability to package hundreds of the Puff as opposed to a dozen of the solar flash lights.I have been working religiously trying to get the cost down so that every one with out access to a grid can afford the solar light Puff. The Puff does just that.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
We wanted to make sure that the jury understands that I have been working on sustainable new materials integrating light materials and technology for several years; also, I am a mother and have a child that has asthma. Solar power used in local and small scale, used collectively all over the world, can change the environment of the air, that our grandchildren and their children will breath in the future.
I realized that there are so many children born with allergies, autism, and asthma all of which are related to the environment. It is too early in the gene pool for our species to be changing that rapidly, the only answer is the environment and we must take every possible step, large or small to help rectify the tremendous ill we have put on our climate and environment.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
The stake holders of the project were the 2 billion people in the world with out access to a grd and in need of light at night. Manufacturing will be targeted and brought to areas that need economic innovations, for areas in extreme poverty. The design is to help all the market people we saw in Nigeria who needed to light their goods at night and all the 1,000,000 displaced people in tent camps who we saw many of in Haiti. Most of the IDP in these areas use the kerosene cups which are dangerous and toxic to children. Assembly and distribution in Africa will be in Nigeria where there is a strong need for jobs in the the youth sector.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
The rigor and research that i started was in 1998 when I started to design emergency shelter for disaster victims, back then I used and researched Photo Voltaic cells on glass before it was even heard of in the news. Then my fascination with textiles and materials moved me to test the integration of light materials and flexible materials with wearable clothing. I researched and sewed a number objects with the flexible solar panel in with the fabric. I soon received help with my friend and colleague Laura Briggs who also shared the same passion for solar energy and the testing of different types of materials with flexible PVs began in the early 2006 We started to visit sail cloth manufacturing plants that could laminate the PVs into the textiles normally used for high speed race boats. The work was in bits and my students helped me a great deal over the years with research and testing.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
When people see how this Puff works, children and adults smile. Children love it and want to play with it.
They puff air into it and deflate it non stop. I read with it at night with my seven year old son. The toughest part of this Puff is that it took many iterations to get the cost down. If we make millions of this solar circuit for the Puff, the cost goes down to about 2.50 USD for just the circuit, but add the other cost of shipping and the fabrication of the bladder, we have something close to 5-6USD. for the first 5,000 we will be paying about 6usd just to get it made then the hope is to sell to the very poor at 8USD per piece. For the American Market we are pricing it for 40 per piece when we asked and polled consumers, how much they would spend on the Puff. But our hope is to first bring it to the people who need it the most right now, the children of these areas with out a grid are in dire need and my wish is to help them first. The people I have shown here are very excited to have it on their roof decks and parties but I don't want to go that route right now. The labor of assembly should be done in areas that need economic aid. the labor involved in assembly is very easy.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
Marketing for India and China right now I am focusing on Nigeria and Haiti.