Delivered in Beta

This video provides a wonderful commentary on working collaboratively and releasing our ideas/concepts/and prototypes to the people who need them before they are perfect– because they never are.

Working in this way reminds me immediately of the innovative work produced by International Design Clinic.  Created by groups of students and professionals, projects executed by the IDC  are deployed in communities in need and are assumed to be version 1.0.  The succeeding 2.0, 3.0, etc. occur as communities take in our work, accept our designs, and then evolve them into something more efficient and personally meaningful.

So start sharing!  Be Creative!  And get Excited!


Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story

If you are ever stuck thinking that you don’t have the tools or resources to be innovative, think again!   At the age of 14, Malawian William Kamkwamba Malawan created a functioning wind turbine after merely seeing an image of one!  Inspired by the dream of providing his family with electricity and a water pump, William’s story is incredible, inspiring, and has almost brought me to tears this evening.  Enjoy the video, and when you realize you must know more of this fascinating story, buy the book here.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

The end of a year, almost the end of a decade.  Eliza and I have been somewhat M.I.A. the past month, due to burgeoning to-do lists and holiday mayhem,  but boy have we got grand plans for 2010!  We are looking to give our little blog a nice facelift sometime in the first part of the year, add more personalized content (including videos and interviews!), and continue to improve Innovate as the year progresses.  Thanks for being a part of our beginning, our first (half) year!

Here’s a final post for the magnificent, difficult, eventful, wondrous, and bittersweet year of 2009……… And a hopeful nod to the innovations of tomorrow.


Cherry-picking from Time Magazine’s 50 Best Inventions of 2009, here are 5 supremely cool items from their list:

5. Vertical Farming.  “Real estate — the one thing we’re not making any more of. That might be good news for landlords but not for the world’s farmers, who have finite cropland to feed a growing global population. The answer: build up by farming vertically. Valcent, a company based in El Paso, Texas, is pioneering a hydroponic-farming system that grows plants in rotating rows, one on top of another. The rotation gives the plants the precise amount of light and nutrients they need, while the vertical stacking enables the use of far less water than conventional farming. But best of all, by growing upward instead of outward, vertical farming can expand food supplies without using more land.”

4. The Electric Eye.  “MIT researchers are developing a microchip that could help blind people regain partial eyesight. Though it won’t completely restore normal vision, it will enable a blind person to recognize faces and navigate a room without assistance. The chip, which is encased in titanium to prevent water damage, will be implanted onto a patient’s eyeball. The patient will then wear a pair of eyeglasses equipped with a tiny camera that transmits images directly to the chip, which in turn sends them to the brain. With any luck, human trials are only a few years away.”

3.  The Smart Thermostat.  “A couple of years ago, Seth Frader-Thompson was driving a Prius. Priuses have little screens on the dashboard that tell you what gas mileage you’re getting, in real time, as you drive. It crossed Frader-Thompson’s mind that houses should have something similar. So he built the EnergyHub Dashboard, a little device, with a screen, that can talk wirelessly to your furnace and your various appliances and let you know exactly how much electricity (or gas) each one is using and how much it’s costing you. It can also turn appliances on and off and raise or lower the temperature in your house so you can rein in the real power hogs. EnergyHub is currently partnering with utilities for trials and will be available direct to consumers in early 2010.”

2.  The School of One.  “This past summer, in a sixth-grade math class, New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein piloted a small program in which individualized, technology-based learning takes the place of the old “let’s all proceed together” approach. Each day, students in the School of One are given a unique lesson plan — a “daily playlist” — tailored to their learning style and rate of progress that includes a mix of virtual tutoring, in-class instruction and educational video games. It’s learning for the Xbox generation.”

1.  The Planetary Skin.  “What happens to Earth when a forest is razed or energy use soars? We don’t know because environmental data are collected by isolated sources, making it impossible to see the whole picture. With the theory that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, NASA and Cisco have teamed up to develop Planetary Skin, a global “nervous system” that will integrate land-, sea-, air- and space-based sensors, helping the public and private sectors make decisions to prevent and adapt to climate change. The pilot project — a prototype is due by 2010 — will track how much carbon is held by rain forests and where.”

*All images above, and text descriptions, via Time online.

And for those who want a little laugh, check out BuzzFeed’s list of 50 Best Protest Signs of 2009.  One of my faves…


Ross Lovegrove

Ross Lovegrove is sui generis in the world of designers.  His idiosyncratic approach to product design is organically breathtaking– fluid in appearance, and revolutionary in composition.  He describes himself as “an evolutionary biologist, more than a designer.”  This quote coming from one of the few sources I could find information on this incredible innovator, in an interview with Design Boom.

The following video is his presentation for TED, (which we recently wrote about here at Innovate). It’s a fantastic talk, but don’t get too sidetracked by the fact that there is a lot of focus on chairs!  (It’s more about the design process and materials, rather than the object itself).

Two items conspicuously missing from his talk are his Alpine Capsule and Solar Trees:

The Alpine Capsule is an off-grid, sustainable, futuristic cabin, if you will. Created as “simply a way to place people in the extremes of nature and its wonders, whilst retaining the maximum of comfort…space technology not in space, but on earth.”¹ The Capsule is meant to be a sanctuary within nature,  transparent from the inside looking out, but reflective of its surroundings on the exterior.  Learn more about it here.

Street lamps are often a dull affair, and Lovegrove’s Solar Trees are a welcome aesthetic antidote to humdrum street appearance.  ” The Solar Trees communicate more than light… they communicate the trust of placing beautifully made, complex natural forms outside for the benefit of all of society”  Read further at

image via Lisa Town

image via

¹from interview featured in Clear magazine, issue 33

*Alpine Capsule images from (Design Magazine)

The Indoor Mini-Garden

I live in an apartment without any yard to speak of (the crawling vines on my building’s fence don’t really count), so there isn’t a place where I can grow my own yummy, organic veggies, even though I want to!  Neither do I possess the green thumb needed to sustain a living plant. Needless to say, when I saw this cool little creation called an Aerogarden, I was pretty stoked.

Touted as the “Foolproof dirt-free indoor garden”, the Aerogarden works by way of oxygen and water.  There is a little pump inside the bottom half of the unit which circulates water into the seed pods, causing them to grow, without the need of a soil base.  The actual science behind this is called aeroponics (similar to hydroponics), which utilizes air and mist to make the growth happen.  The top part houses a special growth light, to make sure the little green guy gets plenty of “sun”.  The Aerogarden is built to house all kinds of edibles and pretty things, from heirloom tomatoes and salad greens, to delicate herbs and flowers.

Though there is no real match to an old-fashion dirt and (real) sun garden, this might be the next best thing!  And you’ll always know exactly where your tomatoes and herbs came from.

Fun Can Change the World

My heart swells a little each time I watch the above videos from the Fun Theory.  Simple, yet well produced, each of the Fun Theory projects realizes great success.  Their theory has been proven: “that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.”

Think you’ve got the next fun idea?  Now is your time to get paid for it.  The Fun Theory is hosting an open competition for the next installation.  The winner will be rewarded the hearty sum of €2,500 and get to have a little fun making the world a little better.  Deadline is December 15, so get to work! And be sure to also let us know what you come up with!

Treehugger’s Wishlist

I fully intend to post my own green wish list, but in the meantime, Treehugger’s “2009 Gift Guide: Have a Slow Holiday” is a great head start!  With 12 categories and over 100 gifts you can pinpoint every person on your list with a meaningful green gift!  A few of my favorites on the list:

Reusable bottle + filter! You have no idea how badly I need one of these with the old pipes in our house

Sorry Louis, Matt and Nat's vegan bags are the must this year

Everyone needs a fabulous sit and sway spot...

Recyled leash. Now all I need is a pup to pull along. Details...

If you know me, you know that I dont leave home without a scarf, and you can be safe to assume that this on, which provides a week worth of resources to tribal families, is really making me smile.

gnome bowling. cute and FREE!

Apparently Inhabitat has compiled a great list as well, but I haven’t had a chance to peruse yet.