Arizona Technology and Innovation: U.S. Mexico Innovation Challenge

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The “Make Energy: A U.S.-Mexico Innovation Challenge” was recently held and invited inventors from all over the world to submit projects that generate clean energy. The winner created homemade AA batteries. The event was organized by several groups in the U.S. and Mexico, including Arizona State University. Joey Eschrich, editor and program manager at ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination, will tell us about the competition.

TED SIMONS: Tonight's edition of Arizona technology and innovation looks at an innovation challenge co-hosted by the U.S. and Mexico. The event invited inventors around the world to come up with clean energy projects. Joey eschrich is editor and program manager at the center for science and imagination at ASU, which was involved in this competition. Good to have you here and thanks for joining us.

JOEY ESCHRICH: Thanks very much for having me.

TED SIMONS: Make energy a U.S. and Mexico innovation challenge. What are we talking about here?

JOEY ESCHRICH: So, the goal here was to get makers not just from the U.S. and Mexico but all over the world involved in creating new technologies and inventions that would not only draw our attention to the ways that we use energy and how energy plays a role in our lives but also to the larger issues of climate change and clean energy that are the devil in policy-makers and scientists alike.

TED SIMONS: And this was, basically, an invitation for do-it-yourselfers and tinkerers.

JOEY ESCHRICH: Yeah. We have always been making things, but digital technology, and the power of the internet has allowed makers to share recipes and how-to guides and photos of their invention and is build on each other's work, and what this competition did is say, sustainability is a challenge and how can we take the ingenuity of this community and direct it at this grand challenge.

TED SIMONS: And the grand challenge was won by a project that involved what, homemade batteries? What's this?

JOEY ESCHRICH: The aa batteries, and --

TED SIMONS: That's what this is, right?

JOEY ESCHRICH: That's what you are looking at. You would be shocked at the ingredients, I was, cardboard, metal washers, distilled water, vinegar and salt. It turns out that there is no excuse for us not to be making our own batteries.

TED SIMONS: That is a aa battery.

JOEY ESCHRICH: Yes, a functional aa battery, and so, a lot of these, and the aa is one of them, came, I think, were inspired by the idea, was if we lost power for a period of time. We have seen blackouts in the United States and all over the world, as a result of emergencies, especially, and a lot of these, whether it's charging your phone or creating batteries to power gadgets in your home, in these situations, I think it's people sort of using this make to take technology into their hands and say we have the agency and the ability to harness these technologies and --

TED SIMONS: We all have the ability to make a solar oven, which was another winner. Talk to us about this.

JOEY ESCHRICH: That was our Spanish language, and I could read you the ingredients, and they are surprisingly simple, but, you know, in Mexico, they have a lot of forms of energy used for cooking and heating homes that expel a lot of nasty stuff into the atmosphere, so this is a concept that I think is born from it, a specific need, it's really use inspired for the place it comes from, and it's an oven that runs on clean energy from the sun.

TED SIMONS: Interesting. And another project, was making energy from weeds.

JOEY ESCHRICH: I like this one a lot.

TED SIMONS: Talk to us here.

JOEY ESCHRICH: And so, it turns out that if you take weeds from the yard and aggregate them together, with common bacteria, you can harness the chemical process to break down the weeds and create a methane gas, and the folks who created this were able to replace some of the gas they used to sort of power the grill in their backyard, for example, with, you know, the weeds that we want to get rid of and truck out, you know, he was sort of using them to create this flurry that he could use for composting, but also to create gas, and he was able to use to heat and cook and do all these really functional and amazing things.

TED SIMONS: My goodness, and all right, let's keep it moving, and we have got a solar powered ceiling fan.

JOEY ESCHRICH: This one was a gift, which I thought was really cute. So, again, an area where, a rural area, it's warm, it's a desert area, and not a lot of power, and this person made this as a gift for a friend to keep her, you know, living space cool, and they use the treadmill motor, which I like, so that motor is the main piece, and basic stuff, and you can get ad hardware store along with the 40-watt solar panel.

So, really consumer level Production.


JOEY ESCHRICH: And again, it makes us feel so lazy for relying on this.

TED SIMONS: Of course we do because I would not hear about all these people making this and I would just go for the store and hope for the best.

Safety, and bike lights. What in the world is this?


You are talking to someone with, you know, two humanities' degrees. This eludes me a bit, but it uses magnets that spin around a bike wheel and create that sort of led safety light that is so helpful on the back of a bike to make you more visible to motorists, and it really works like magic, a lot of it, so a lot of the, the winners, they did such a great job using instructables, which was the host for the competition or one of the leading-maker websites, and they used the sort of power and the format of that website so create these step by step guides with videos and photos and I really like the bike light video. It just -- it looks like it's working by magic.

TED SIMONS Yeah, in the old days, they had the friction would get the light moving on some part of the bike. And that was back in the old days. This looks like a new angle.

JOEY ESCHRICH: They are done with the old fashioned friction.

TED SIMONS: And you talk about

JOEY ESCHRICH: So indestructables is one of our collaborators, this was a huge effort along educational institutions, and industry folks, and think tanks, and as well as the office of the Mexican presidency and city Mayor, ASU, the new America foundation, Green momentum, a company in Mexico, and the University auto desk, and several Mexico-maker stations. And undestructables allows folks from different parts of the world to share their inventions with each other in a spirit of generosity that I find inspiring to say here's what I have done and you can replicate it and you can take and iterate on it and make it better and adapt it to your context.

TED SIMONS: Congratulations on this. This sounds like a lot of fun, and it certainly has brought up some interesting projects here. Good work. Thank you for joining us.

JOEY ESCHRICH: Thank you very much for having me.

TED SIMONS: And Wednesday on Arizona Horizon, a debate over the state's new ban on bans of grocery bags, and we will hear about how the summer travel season could hit post-recession ties, that's on the next Arizona Horizon. That's it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thanks for joining us, you have a great evening. 18:55:22:24 Captioning Performed By LNS Captioning 18:55:23:06

Arizona Horizon is made possible by the contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Joey Eschrich:Editor and Program Manager at ASU's Center for Science and the Imagination

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