2014 | Core77 Award - Strategy & Research Notable
2012 | James Dyson Foundation (Bursary)
Blastproof - R&D - Tools for humanitarian landmine removal teams
Landmines remain one of the most enduring barriers to development in post-war territories worldwide. The aim of the project is to identify and develop innovations that can prevent injury to local teams engaged in manual mine clearance. For a more in-depth overview of the project, please visit www.blastproof.org.
“When a deminer detonates a mine as he exposes it, the most frequent disabling injury is to his hands. Deminers are often poorly educated labourers. When they lose a hand they may lose any opportunity to earn a living. In a post-conflict economy, that can be a death sentence.” ∼ Andy Smith nolandmines.com
Development has focused on tools that can promote safe working practices in the field including reactive training mines and ergonomic demining handtools.
Opportunity - Current training equipment is static (cast plastic, weighted replicas) and provides no feedback should the hazard be disturbed or handled inappropriately during training. It is only after an accident involving a real mine, that deminers fully understand the true unpredictability and sensitivity of such hazards – and then too late.
Improve risk perception to prevent accidents in the first place - Training tools that offer deminers a tangible feel for appropriate interactions without risk. Presently such insight comes too late, after an accident involving a real mine occurs.
Development - Reactive training tools that imitate the form, weight, sensitivity and unpredictability of real mines and were reverse engineered from real decommissioned artifacts accessed through various NGOs and specialists.
The mines are designed to be integrated with metal detection training and used in groups of two or more mines. One mine is required to act as a beacon relaying wirelessly transmitted data from the buried mines to the deminer. When a buried mine is disturbed or falls out of range, the mine notifies the deminer through audible and visual feedback. The tools provide deminers with immediate feedback concerning their performance, motivating them to maintain/improve safe working practices.
Opportunity - The injuries that can follow the accidental detonation of a landmine are often attributed to the use of improvised tools (designed to better meet the needs of gardeners rather than deminers) or the misuse of existing long handled demining tools, both being unsafe practices which place the deminer’s hands within inches of a potential blast. In addition improvised tools have been known to fragment (as reported in the database of demining accidents), resulting in the injury / potential death of its operator. Demining is often carried out in uncomfortable conditions - environmental factors and boredom can affect the focus of deminers and increase the risk of an accident. Accidents can occur but without injury if properly specified tools are used in an appropriate way.
Development - My personal interest in tool development is how the ergonomics can influence working practices, The objective was to create tools that were easiest to use in the safest way – thereby promoting safe working practices. Experimentation lead to the development of a double-handed, shielded ergonomic grip which required the deminer to employ both hands when using the tool, with the handle having a range of detachable toolheads for use in differing terrain and tasks. This ensures that the deminers hands and body always remain a safe distance from the cutting edge of the tools – and therefore from the origin of any potential blasts.
As part of the project I have mapped what I know as part of a large info-graphic story. I would be interest to hear from anybody that would like to contribute to this or feels it would be relevant to their work.
The project is based upon insights that were gained through the personal stories of individuals who have worked over decades as part of solutions collectively referred to as Mine Action.