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)

Andres Sierra (Landivar)

  1. Describe two important lessons you learned form this trip?

    I realized that even if I’m Guatemalan, I still need to much to learn from my country, and specially from the Mayan groups that live around here, because they can teach you a little bit more of life from their experience.

    These communities really need help in a way to have a better development and get more incomes.

  2. Give 3 ideas to improve this experience
    • Have a little more time to visit more work places, (I know it’s difficult to manage time in a short trip, but I believe that the whole group should have visited all the work places)
    • If there is possible, getting a place with toilettes, instead of latrines.
    • Show how is the way of cooking in Guatemala (show the process of making tortillas, and different types of food) for foreigners.

  3. Think of 3 basic co-creation principles that could benefit the engineering/design practices of local  "genius partners"
    • Use their skills and knowledge of the community to create products that can make any chores much easier for women, especially elderly women.
    • To go and do some research within the local workshops, to evaluate if they can manufacture especial tool for their workshop, with the materials that they own.
    • To synthesized all the information they own to transmitted it to possible work partners

  4. Describe what engineering/design practices of the local "genius partners" you found most useful.
    • The use of bicycle parts for creating new machines, with adaptable tools.
    • Because they understand the way of thinking of their community, they can develop projects that will be accepted.
    • In a way, their designs were easy to understand and use by people.

  5. Explain 3 basic ground truths that will inform you better for the design challenge problem identification phase or during the design process
    • You have to think in every aspect of the design process in the Mayan communities way of thinking
    • All the designs have to be easy to understand, and easy to use
    • The designs have to be as cheap as possible, because the communities don't have great incomes.

  6. Did this trip met your expectations?  Explain how or why not.

    In the beginning, I had many expectations of this trip, like: knowing new people, learn from teachers and students, knowing a little bit more from my country, and some others, but, after a amazing week, not only from the people I met, but from the cultural learning from Mayan communities, their way of living, beliefs and culture, my expectation were met, and went further.

  7. In terms of gathering Product Design ground truth, what would you have done differently?

    Maybe to be more prepared to learn how to ask them questions about their products and tools in a better way, because in some cases, they didn’t understand well the questions.

  8. In terms of ethnographic type research, what would you have done differently?

    Nothing, I believe that we were able to see in many ways their way of living and thinking, and really understand why the act certain way.

  9. Tell us what relevant information was missing about this trip.

    Maybe, a meeting with the town elders, so the people can understand why they are a really important part of the community, and how they see things (more in a traditional way)

  10. As a whole, what you loved or what you hated most in this trip?

    I loved every aspect of it, from the cultural learning, see how they live, and to the music performances were great. The people, the food, their kindness, all were amazing. The only thing I hated (but that is personal) was the use of the latrine, just that.