Digital Observatory for Environmental Justice: Tracking environmental justice through journalism or grassroots activism is an extremely dangerous activity in Latin America. In collaboration with several NGOs and Civil Society organizations we’re building a platform for analyzing data, and creating tools for participatory digital activism and community science…


Building a Coconut Coir/Soil Moisture Sensor with SMS: Wouldn’t it be great if you could automate your home irrigation? Wouldn’t it be cool if your coconut would communicate with you when it needed water? You’d be able so save water, money and become good friends with a coconut! Here is a tutorial on how to start communicating with one. It takes you from the very basic steps of installing modules, to soldering your cables, to setting up SMS, and later on… increasing the complexity by adding PV and automated irrigation. Good times!


Water Equity and Rationing in California (People’s Choice Award, BERC Cleanweb Hackathon 2015): Since 2011 many areas across California have experienced their drighest years on record, with conditions barely improving, and in some cases worsening, since then. Reservoirs and snowpack water content have recorded some of the lowest measurements ever recorded, with users (individuals, towns and cities) using groundwater to buffer the potentially devastating effects of the drought. Among other strategies…

A Brief History of Mexico and Oil: In 1979, Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo (1976 – 1982) announced to the world that Mexico had begun exploiting ‘Cantarell’, the world’s third largest oil field at the time (just behind the Ghawar and Burgan fields of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait). This bounty came with promises of jobs, technological development, commitment to industrialization, and sustainable city-building. Above all, Lopez Portillo (and his team of experts) stressed that this windfall of wealth would be reinvested in Mexico to guarantee a future ‘beyond Oil’. It only took 24 years for Cantarell to reach ‘peak oil’ status. This means …


Paradox of Plenty: Innovation and Growth: The 2013 Global Innovation Index report describes different characteristics of countries that learn and innovate. There are ‘innovation leaders’ or those that have succeeded in creating well-linked innovation ecosystems where investments in human capital thrive in ‘fertile and stable innovation structures’. There are also the ‘innovation learners’ – which include a group of 18 middle income countries that are 10% or higher above the trend line (Republic of Moldova, China, India, Uganda, Armenia, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Jordan, Mongolia, Mali, Kenya, Senegal, Hungary, Georgia, Montenegro, Costa Rica, …


Distributed Sensor Networks & Flexible Demand: Distributed Sensor Networks & Flexible Demand: The increased penetration of uncertain and variable renewable energy presents various resource and operational electric grid challenges 1 . Micro-level (household and small commercial) demand-side grid flexibility could be a cost-effective strategy to integrate high penetrations of wind and solar energy, but literature and field deployments exploring the necessary information and communication technologies (ICTs) are scant. This paper presents an exploratory framework for enabling information driven grid flexibility through the Internet of Things (IoT), and a proof-of-concept wireless sensor gateway (FlexBox) to collect …

SWITCH Nicaragua: In the next few decades, as it has been in the past, Nicaragua’s ability to fulfill its full economic and development potential will be tightly linked to the availability and efficient use of energy. Quality of life, as well as improvements in industrial and manufacturing efficiency will be equally tied to the provision of high quality energy services. Despite a relatively small population compared to its area (49 people/km2), and strong GDP growth (4.7%/year), the country holds the 129th position in the UN’s HDI, the third lowest position in the Western Hemisphere after Guatemala and Haiti…


Household Water Use in Mexico: In partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank’s Division on Climate Change and Cantaro Azul, an NGO that focuses on drinking water quality issues in rural Mexico, we developed three metrics to estimate the embedded energy and CO2eq emissions in every cubic meter of water used in Mexican households. Our analysis evaluated the embedded energy and CO2eq emissions related to: 1) extracting/collecting, treating, and distributing water to households, 2) the panoply of methods through which Mexicans heat water, and 3) the ubiquitous use of drinking bottled water (Garrafones) throughout the country. We applied a life cycle analysis (LCA) …


Micro-Synchrophasors (u-PMUs) and the sMArT Grid: The sMarT Grid is the joining of two infrastructures, the electrical infrastructure and the intelligence infrastructure. The electrical infrastructure still contains a legacy of our past and includes an often-inadequate distribution and transmission system, power production, network controllers, infrastructure and buildings, and consumers. Intelligence infrastructure is that which allows for better control, service, and optimization of the entire system. Historically…


The Fulbright Nexus Experience: The 2013 Fulbright Regional Network for Applied Research (Fulbright NEXUS) brought together 20 junior scholars, professionals and mid-career applied researchers from the United States (5) and Latin America and the Caribbean (15), to develop individual and group research collaborations through three seminar meetings in Banff (Canada), Medellin (Colombia), and Washington D.C (US). Individual research projects ranged from…


Hydrogeology, Agriculture, and Energy Dynamics: With India being the largest consumer of groundwater in the world, it is expected that with current extraction rates sixty percent of its aquifers will be in critical condition in twenty years. In Punjab and Telangana, the electricity subsidy provided to agriculture accounts for over forty and fifty percent of the annual government budget deficits respectively, with groundwater extractions being some of the largest and costliest in the world. Although groundwater irrigation indeed buffers these dry environments…


Willingness to Pay & Clean Water Distribution In partnership with the Dominican Sisters in Guaimaca the Engineers Without Borders (EWB-Boston) Professional Chapter is working to improve the quality and quantity of potable water for three small towns on the outskirts of Guiamaca (Honduras) called La Calona, Maraquito and Aguacatillo, Since 2008 EWB-Boston has completed over five assessment/implementation trips to Honduras. During these visits, we’ve held a variety of meetings with community leaders…


Low-Tech & High-Impact Sustainable Development Since 2007, Engineers Without Borders at the University of Minnesota has been collaborating with Hope Integrated Academy (HOPE) and the Uganda Rural Fund to bring high quality-reliability water and sanitation services to HOPE. In it’s sixth year of collaboration with URF – the EWB-UMN team has implemented V design and implementation projects. Phases I and II involved a buffered rainwater/groundwater (solar pumped) distribution system (collection, storage and distribution) and a dry composting eco-sanitation system with hand washing facilities. Phase III (2010) distributed and installed improved stoves (45 households) collecting particle, temperature, and carbon monoxide data…


Men and Women in micro-Lending Groups? Although it was a brief stint with Grameen Trust Chiapas and Innovations for Poverty Action back in 2003 and 2004, performing interviews, developing descriptive statistics, and many other reports, the work I was doing regarding their client base helped develop the background of a pioneering study in microfinance that would investigate the impact (positive and negative) of inviting men into previously women-only microlending groups in Chiapas. It was also my first ‘formal’ development type research experience and project. The project intended to shed light on the notion of ‘women empowerment in microfinance’, and focused on the growing concern that women are increasingly suffering…