The Stanford Woods Institute recently awarded grants to Stanford student projects that hold the promise of better integrating tourism with conservation and cultural protection, and bringing sustainable, small-scale clean power to developing countries.

The Mel Lane Student Grants Program provides $500 – $3,000 per project for student-driven-and-managed environmental initiatives that make a measureable impact on an issue through action or applied research. Preference is given to projects that focus on environmental sustainability within one of the following topic areas: climate, ecosystem services and conservation, food security, freshwater, oceans, public health or sustainable development. The next proposal submission deadline will be in fall 2014.

Projects funded for 2014:

The Teaching Ocean
Kaipo Lucas, Peter Montgomery, Alexzandra Scully

This project will create a 15-minute documentary film highlighting the traditional beliefs and current conservation efforts surrounding Southern Humpback whales in the Kindgom of Tonga, where the whales visit every July to breed and calve their young. Through extensive interviews with marine biologists, conservationists, local Tongan fisherman, members of the Tongan monarchy and others, this project will seek to understand the influence a western tourist-model may have on marine environment and cultural preservation. Goals include  determining the effects a steady increase in tourism may have on Southern Humpbacks, the promotion or dilution of local Tongan culture and related ecotourism best practices.

Remote Monitoring System for Micro-Hydropower Plants in Indonesia
Tha Zin, Manni Cavalli-Sforza, Christopher Ling, Meredith Marks, Keenan Molner, Michelle Valentine; Stanford Engineers for a Sustainable World, Institute for Business and Economy, WellDone

This project seeks to design and develop a remote monitoring system for micro-hydropower sites to be used by the Indonesian non-profit Institute for Business and Economy (IBEKA), an award-winning organization focused on enabling sustainable rural development. The goal is to help enhance the feasibility of small-scale clean power generation by ensuring the long-term sustainability of micro-hydro projects in a developing country. Project participants will design an affordable and easily maintained micro-controller complemented by a user-friendly application that will store and analyze power generation data for use by IBEKA. Our aim is to provide IBEKA beneficiaries, where community owned micro-hydro system technology exists, the ability to monitor and improve the electrification systems. 

Solar Irrigation in India for Small Share Farmers
Engineers for a Sustainable World

For the third consecutive year, in collaboration with Wells for India (a U.K.-based charity), and Sahyog Sansthan (a local NGO), Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW)-Stanford will design a solar irrigation system that will be suitable for poor smallholder farmers in the region. ESW’s Solar Irrigation Team will work in conjunction with Claro Ventures to design an integrated solar solution for smallholder farmers that will provide a reliable energy source for irrigation and domestic activities. The multi-use capacity of this solar design will not only provide labor and water savings during irrigation, but also encapsulate an entrepreneurial opportunity that will minimize agricultural risk and increase household food security.

Technical design and community development aspects of the project will be tackled in the Design for a Sustainable World (CEE177/277S&X) class, a student run, two-quarter design course operated by ESW. Its purpose is to introduce students in a structured fashion to the intricacies of international development work, design thinking and impact engineering through interdisciplinary design projects. Students will be selected for the new cohort in mid-November, and they will enroll in a one-credit class, Winter 2014. This course will help prepare the students to understand international development, and to develop the project plan for Spring 2014. During Spring 2014, the students will complete the project plan.

Sustainable Engineering Workshop Series
Engineers for a Sustainable World

The Local Initiatives Team is a newly developed team in Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), currently in its second year. The team’s goal is to focus on sustainability initiatives in the Bay Area. The team is planning to continue carrying out an outreach program at Granada High School (GHS) in Livermore, Calif. Alongside GHS, the team plans to expand its outreach program to other communities including an after-school program located on the Stanford campus and the Opportunity Center in Palo Alto. The goal of the outreach program is to develop a series of workshops on relevant topics in sustainable engineering. This grant will help fund the more developed prototype course series for the group, which will include workshops on water quality, solar energy, wind energy, and green building. In the future, as the team continues to expand its capacity and develop newer courses, it will apply for other grants.

Tropical Kenari Nuts for a Sustainable Future
Independent team of students

A collaborative project between Stanford students and the village of Masihulan on the island of Seram in eastern Indonesia to design a human-powered (i.e., non-electric) nut cracker and organize a community co-operative to manage its utilization and maintenance. Kenari nuts come from various species of the tropical kenari tree (Canarium spp.), which grow in wild or human managed forests in the Philippines, Indonesia, New Guinea and Melanesia. The most common species in Seram is Canarium indicum, which is spread naturally by forest birds and opportunistically planted by people in abandoned gardens and villages. The fruits of the tree comprise an important food source for many birds and animals, including the endangered Seram cockatoo, whereas the tree itself provides a nesting site and is believed by local communities to help clean local streams and springs. The kernel of the fruit is protected by a hard nut casing to prevent its consumption by birds. During the kenari tree's fruiting season, which lasts about two months and begins at different times throughout the year at different locations on the island depending on elevation and rainfall, women and children gather fallen nuts and partially consumed fruits, then crack the nuts using rocks, hammers, and/or machetes to obtain the delicious and nutritious kernel, which is high in fats and proteins. These kernels are consumed domestically and sold to local markets.

Low-cost technology development using 3-D printing: Designing a water disinfection device for slums in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Stanford University Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW)

To further refine an in-line, automatic chlorination technology, which disinfects water from common hand pumps, this team is moving toward larger-scale field testing and manufacturing. Beyond the technology development goals, the team hopes to share its experience with other members of the Stanford community. In 2011, this project was part of Stanford Engineers for a Sustainable World’s (ESW) two-quarter course, introducing students to design challenges in the developing world. One of the team’s key tools in the design process has been a Makerbot 3D printer. Thus, the team’s key objectives include introducing students in ESW to 3D printing as a tool for low-cost, rapid prototyping. To that end, the team will purchase materials and equipment necessary to further develop the prototype at Stanford for field testing and manufacturing. Additionally, it will introduce 3D printing to Stanford students involved in developing-world design and to engage a wider community in one example of the innovative design projects underway at Stanford, through a Dhaka team blog.

Read more about the program and other funded projects.