MIT is offering one of the more intriguing design courses, Humanitarian Demining, course listing SP.776 .
Humanitarian Demining is the process of detecting, removing and disposing of landmines. Millions of landmines are buried in more than 80 countries resulting in 20,000 civilian victims every year. The course is described as follows:
Landmines left over from conflicts maim or kill tens of thousands of civilians every year in over seventy countries. In this hands-on class, students learn about humanitarian demining and then design and build a device to aid the demining community. There is a field trip to an army base to expose the students to authentic demining training. Guest speakers who are active in the field enhance the study of de-mining. In previous years, students have worked on probes, clippers, metal detectors, shields, flails and grapples. According to one deminer, the MIT Demining Class is the only student-based group to have successfully invented and launched a tool into widespread use in the field.
For more information contact Ben Linder, email@example.com.
This could be one of the more sober design issues I could imagine. The effects of land mines echo throughout communities around the globe. And those mines, often costing less than $10 to deploy, kill and maim for decades afterwards.
One recent innovator in the field is a Japanese man who was shocked by victims of landmines during a visit to Cambodia ten years ago. He developed an effective machine to remove landmines. Mr. Amemiya's company converted mechanical digger by adapting Hitachi Construction's hydraulic excavator. He put a drum bristling with blades in place of the bucket on the hydraulic arm and strengthening the cab against blasts.
The most difficult part was creating steel `teeth' that could resist the 1,000-degree heat from a mine explosion. It took his team four to five years to make the strong cutters.
Biological Demining Tools (from worldchanging.com):
A couple of solutions that draw on the effective methods inherit in nature, including rats(!?)and land mine detecting flowers.
Reuters reports that the Danish company Aresa Biodetection has developed genetically-modified flowers which change color when their roots come in contact with Nitrogen Dioxide in the soil. Explosives used in mines produce NO2 as the chemicals gradually decay.
DC Comics published this comic book in cooperation with the US Department of Defense and UNICEF to raise awareness of the threat facing children in Bosnia.
E-MINE: The Electronic Mine Information Network
The International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) are now the standards in force for all UN mine action operations.
International Campaign to Ban Landmines
The Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World - or first Review Conference of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty - took place from 29 November to 3 December 2004 in Nairobi, Kenya.