Ken Pickar
Visiting Professor of Mechanical Engineering

California Institute of Technology
208 Gates-Thomas, Mail Code 104-44
Pasadena, CA 91125
(626) 395-4185


E/MedE/ME 105

Background Materials

E 102

E/ME 103

Useful Links




E/ME 105: Product Design for the Developing World

Trips to Guatemala (Student Trip Reports)

Armie Pasa (Art Center)

  1. Lessons from the trip:
    • There is a lot of factors to consider in designing for a group of people with a unique background, sets of belief and tradition.
    • Simple solutions are more complex when it comes down to finding material resource, maintenance, and budget.

  2. Improvements:
    • In regards to the culture, respecting the traditions and beliefs to make way for solutions.
    • Finding our cheap and available materials.
    • By understanding the Mayan lifestyle, designing to implement easy maintenance.

  3. Principles:
    • Implementing safety for users and people around.
    • Sharing and cooperation will help benefit both sides.
    • Human factors.

  4. Useful practices:
    • Mechanical applications
    • Simplified functions

  5. Ground truths for better design:
    • Knowledge about the lifestyle.
    • Current water resource for most of the users

  6. The trip met most of my expectations. I feel that some of the members of the group weren’t asking the right questions during the interviews. Other than that, the trip is a great experience. It’s definitely very helpful that Luzmi and Mario were there to fill in information regarding the culture.

  7. I would have given a sample questionnaires for the interview amongst the team members to serve as a guide (most importantly, addressing the human factors also).

  8. Get to know the people more. Maybe live with a family (?) to get a better idea how they live.

  9. Although the information on generating income was asked and given, the question on human factors wasn't addressed much.

  10. This experience was definitely an "eye opener" for me. Knowing and learning about this unique culture and designing to suit their needs is very challenging. I enjoyed the food, people and the environment. Professionalism and maturity seem difficult to achieve by some members and it just slows the whole process and schedule.