Grants:Project/Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute/Newton Machine Wiki website proposal

Newton Machine Wiki website proposal
summaryThe aim of this proposal is to develop and document on a Wiki website several iterations of the Newton Machine (a new gravity storage battery designed by M-ITI researchers) with remote communities in Ethiopia. Indeed, the uniqueness of this battery is its ability to be built, installed and maintained by local communities thanks to open source tutorials and local materials and skills needed to make it work, and therefore to provide energy self-sufficiency and maintenance autonomy to remote communities currently off-the-grid.
targetEnglish/Newton Machine Wiki website
amount€75 500
this project needs...
created on04:51, 21 October 2017 (UTC)

Project ideaEdit

What is the problem you're trying to solve?Edit

What problem are you trying to solve by doing this project? This problem should be small enough that you expect it to be completely or mostly resolved by the end of this project. Remember to review the tutorial for tips on how to answer this question.

In Ethiopia, the 2nd largest population in Africa, only 25% of the population have access to electricity according to the WEO 2016 Electricity access database, and only 10% in rural areas. ‘This is largely because the population is scattered across all its regions and that it is very difficult to bring infrastructures to all areas of the country’ according to a source from Agence Française pour le Dévelopment (AFD) working on large electricity projects in Ethiopia. Off-grid investments are not attracting private companies as long-term prospects of return on investment are made unlikely by the low rate of state-provided electricity which is slowly spreading throughout the country.

In the meantime millions of people living in remote communities are without electricity and thereby prevented from economic development and growth.

In mountainous regions or regions where drops can be found (e.g. mining areas), a Newton Machine could provide a charging station for a community depending on their energy needs (e.g. for mobile phones during the night).

Scattered houses also mean that micro-grids are not efficient, too much electricity would be lost in the transportation from the power supply to each house, while a Newton Machine can provide electricity for an isolated house due to its low-budget and low-skills requirements. Through this proposal we will attempt to start a movement of open source offline and online knowledge sharing to enable remote communities to build their own sustainable homemade energy device, starting from 2 remote communities.

What is your solution to this problem?Edit

For the problem you identified in the previous section, briefly describe your how you would like to address this problem. We recognize that there are many ways to solve a problem. We’d like to understand why you chose this particular solution, and why you think it is worth pursuing. Remember to review the tutorial for tips on how to answer this question.

We have chosen a combination of offline events and online open-source content generation in order to ensure the solutions for energy access are created and used by remote communities who do not have access to cheap solutions (in Africa, the cost of electricity, when accessible, is 7 times higher than in other parts of the world). We feel that we need to build relationships with communities around the process and make sure devices are suited to their local needs before launching a movement for other communities to join and benefit from. Our partnerships with local Ethiopian community based organisations and technology institutes will enable us to work directly with communities while starting a scaleable movement through volunteer students and tech-savvy local institutions as relays for the momentum beyond the 12 months of the project.

Project goalsEdit

What are your goals for this project? Your goals should describe the top two or three benefits that will come out of your project. These should be benefits to the Wikimedia projects or Wikimedia communities. They should not be benefits to you individually. Remember to review the tutorial for tips on how to answer this question.

  1. Empower volunteer students and remote communities in Ethiopia to document their adaptation of sustainable homemade energy devices on the Newton Machine Wiki website, online and offline.
  2. Encourage Ethiopian students and communities to use Wiki platforms to find new resources.
  3. Enable remote communities in Ethiopia to build sustainable homemade energy storage batteries.

Project impactEdit

How will you know if you have met your goals?Edit

For each of your goals, we’d like you to answer the following questions:

  1. During your project, what will you do to achieve this goal? (These are your outputs.)
  2. Once your project is over, how will it continue to positively impact the Wikimedia community or projects? (These are your outcomes.)

For each of your answers, think about how you will capture this information. Will you capture it with a survey? With a story? Will you measure it with a number? Remember, if you plan to measure a number, you will need to set a numeric target in your proposal (i.e. 45 people, 10 articles, 100 scanned documents). Remember to review the tutorial for tips on how to answer this question.

1.Empower​ ​volunteer​ ​students​ ​and​ ​remote​ ​communities​ ​in​ ​Ethiopia​ ​to​ ​document​ ​their adaptation​ ​of​ ​sustainable​ ​homemade​ ​energy​ ​devices​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Newton​ ​Machine​ ​Wiki website.

We will use our existing partnerships with Technology Institutes, private companies and Community Based Organisations in Ethiopia to create an outreach movement around homemade energy devices and documenting those through the Newton Machine Wiki website. In order to achieve this goal we will work in 2 remote communities needing access to energy and engage 15 engineering/computer science volunteer students to carry out energy assessments and help develop the project in those 2 communities. We will then train the volunteer students and 20 participants (10 per community) to develop their own homemade energy solution based on the successful prototypes of the Newton Machine developed in Madeira.

Through this training and offline design workshops, tailored homemade devices will be built and this process will be documented through 100 pages of content (50 per community) for the Newton Machine Wiki website. This content will include pictures, video tutorials and downloadable resources in order to be accessible offline in remote areas.

Outcome​: after the 12-month duration of the project local partnerships between Tech Institutes, local community based organisations, companies and volunteer students will have been built to spread the use of the Newton machine Wiki to other remote communities in Ethiopia, while M-ITI’s evaluation and report on the process will be used to trigger international networks around engaging in the same community-driven design and documentation process on the Wiki website. The Newton Machine Wiki website will become a repository for all remote communities who have built a homemade energy device to document the process for replication, including gravity batteries like the Newton Machine, but also devices using other sources of energy depending on topography, e.g. using irrigation canals or salt water as currently prototyped by M-ITI volunteers.

2.Encourage​ ​Ethiopian​ ​students​ ​and​ ​communities​ ​to​ ​use​ ​Wiki​ ​platforms​ ​to​ ​find​ ​new resources​ ​and​ ​have​ ​better​ ​access​ ​to​ ​cheap​ ​energy​ using​ ​local​ ​resources,​ ​materials​ ​and skills.

Our established partnerships with Ethiopian entities will enable us to run outreach programmes through student volunteers in 2 remote Ethiopian villages and in neighbouring communities who will be likely to have similar energy access needs. In order to extend the scope of the outreach and the use of the Newton Machine Wiki content for communities to learn from each other’s device building we will run information programmes in a further 5 communities with a further 50 participants, and involve a further 30 volunteer students in supporting outreach with their peers and other communities.

Outcome:​ ​After the end of the project,​ ​this movement will have enabled the extension in Ethiopia of the use of the Wiki website design manuals generated by local communities to encourage other communities to learn from their peers in similar areas and through our academic, private and community partners. M-ITI’s international networks will also open the process to other countries and continents for communities who face similar energy access issues, through the Maker Labs network and a campaign of offline events using the Newton Machine Wiki content to build tailored energy devices for instance.

3.Enable​ ​remote​ ​communities​ ​in​ ​Ethiopia​ ​to​ ​build​ ​sustainable​ ​homemade​ ​energy​ ​storage batteries​.

Using the successful prototypes of the Newton Machine gravity battery, we will work with identified communities (20 participants in 2 communities) who need access to cheap energy in order to help them adapt the technology to their local terrain, materials and skills and build their own device. This new knowledge will enable them to maintain the devices in case of failure and to be independent while sustainable in their use of energy. Current prototypes enable the overnight release of enough energy to charge mobile phones or power light bulbs, which for remote communities can make a big difference in terms of education and economic development.

M-ITI volunteers will be working with student volunteers to assess energy needs, build devices, monitor and evaluate the adoption and possible adaptations of the devices throughout the 12 months. All of this will be documented through the Newton Machine Wiki website.

Outcome:​ ​The evaluation of this project and the learning gained through it will be disseminated through M-ITI’s networks and academic channels in order to encourage other communities and institutions to organise similar processes and encourage more communities to build their own sustainable homemade energy device around the world.

Do you have any goals around participation or content?Edit

Are any of your goals related to increasing participation within the Wikimedia movement, or increasing/improving the content on Wikimedia projects? If so, we ask that you look through these three metrics, and include any that are relevant to your project. Please set a numeric target against the metrics, if applicable.

Total number of participants: 115 (70 people from remote Ethiopian communities and 45 students)

Total number of newly registered users (combination of volunteer students and local communities: 25

Number of content pages, created or improved on the Newton Machine Wiki website: 100

Project planEdit


Tell us how you'll carry out your project. What will you and other organizers spend your time doing? What will you have done at the end of your project? How will you follow-up with people that are involved with your project?

Step​ ​1:​ ​Energy​ ​assessment​ ​in​ ​Ethiopia:​ ​Month​ ​1

The implementation strategy for the battery will be based on the geography and local need of each community. Thus the village profile will be studied in advance in situ with 2 M-ITI volunteers, student volunteers and local staff and for best efficiency of the gravity battery, including:

  • Geographic assessment of local terrain
  • Local climate: wind and/or sun for energy provision during the day
  • Sociological /socio economic aspect: an energy needs assessment will be carried out on

site to evaluate who needs a battery and what they need it for, when, whether the community is receptive to the idea etc.

  • Technical assessment:​ ​when do they need electricity, what hours of the night to decide

what type of load technically and how much can be provided with a gravity battery.

Step​ ​2:​ ​System​ ​design​ ​based​ ​on​ ​the​ ​energy​ ​assessment:​ ​Months​ ​2-3

The collaboratively written design manual (on the Newton machine Wiki website) created in Madeira will enable the Ethiopian team of volunteers and community members to begin preparations and initial development of their device.

We will begin with extensive preparation of materials and equipment, which will be gathered from the local environment or manufactured from ‘what is to hand’ locally. Any local permissions needed for an installation will also be obtained.

Step​ ​3:​ ​Equipment​ ​purchase​ ​and​ ​on​ ​site​ ​installation:​ ​Months​ ​4-5

M-ITI volunteers will then visit Ethiopia for an intensive workshop and installation over 2 weeks where the entire gravity battery team will work with 2 remote communities to install, operate, and adapt the prototype to the very specific conditions in Ethiopia. These conditions can be thought of as components in the infrastructure of the gravity battery. These will all be considered as parts of the gravity battery that may need to be re-designed and adapted to the particularities of Ethiopia:

  • Environment (weather, terrain, humidity, wildlife, livestock)
  • Social (land ownership, fuel poverty, social relations, island culture),
  • Energy (grid curtailment, energy intensive work, energy intensive objects)
  • Materials (waste, available spare parts, local resources)

Step​ ​4:​ ​Testing​ ​and​ ​training​ ​local​ ​communities:​ ​Month​ ​6

We will use train and use local contributors and student volunteers to record and document this phase in Ethiopia. The following documentation will be made:

  • Field research report
  • Short film
  • Photography
  • Workshops with 20 participants (week long series of activities, some planned, some ad

hoc, drawing on expertise around the Ethiopian location to install and operate and share the experience with local communities)

During this period of re-design, installation and operation in the Living Laboratory that is the Ethiopian location, there will be constant documentation and recording. This documentation will both form an important Design Manual for the citizen-led approach to designing an energy storage solution and a communication tool for wider dissemination. It is this Design Manual, and all the documentation that it includes, which will go along with the prototype to lead and inform workshops and constitute the 100 pages of content for the Newton Machine Wiki website.

Step​ ​5:​ ​Monitoring​ ​adoption​ ​and​ ​use:​ ​Months​ ​7-12

Following the building, installation and training of the local community, monthly monitoring will be carried out by a local researcher and student volunteers and shared with M-ITI in order to monitor the adoption and use of the battery, whether and how other nearby communities have built a battery using local skills, and how the energy being generated is impacting the lives of the locals.

We have planned a mid-term monitoring visit in month 9 and a final evaluation visit in month 12 before delivering the final report and disseminating a complete version of the Open Source Newton machine Wiki manual as shaped by Ethiopian communities.


How you will use the funds you are requesting? List bullet points for each expense. (You can create a table later if needed.) Don’t forget to include a total amount, and update this amount in the Probox at the top of your page too!

Step​ ​1:​ ​Energy​ ​needs​ ​assessment​ ​in​ ​Ethiopia:

  • Local researcher: €2 000
  • Travel 2 M-ITI volunteers: €6 000
  • Local transport: €400
  • Accommodation and board Local researcher/volunteers: €1 000
  • Student volunteers expenses (food and transport): €500

Step 2: System Design:

  • M-ITI researcher’s time (1 researcher for 1 month full time): €3 000

Step 3: Equipment purchase and on site installation

  • Travel to Ethiopia for 4 M-ITI researchers: €10 000
  • Accommodation & board Ethiopia x4: €2 000
  • 2x PV/wind turbine for day use: €4 000
  • Prototype material costs (sourced locally prior to building and installation): €1 000
  • Parts manufacturer (basic machining and fabrication): €1 000
  • Documentation equipment (M-ITI cameras, editing suite etc, in-kind): €500

Step 4: Testing and training local communities in Ethiopia:

  • M-ITI researchers time 2 weeks x3 (in kind): €0
  • Local engagement (fee for locals for training workshop organisation, cash incentives

etc): €3 000

  • Local Ethiopian staff time to prepare and coordinate training workshops over 4 months:

€5 000

  • Local Ethiopian researcher's time to coordinate volunteer students over 9 months: €8


  • Volunteer students expenses (transport and food): €1 000

Step 5: Post-installation monitoring and evaluation

  • Ethiopian researcher, monthly evaluation and adjustments over 6 months: €4 000
  • Volunteer student expenses for field evaluation: €2 000
  • M-ITI volunteer monitoring visits for mid-term and final evaluation: 2 visits: €6 000
  • Project Management (5%): €3 020
  • Overheads (20%): €12 080

Total: €75 500

Total​ ​amount

Total: €75 500

Community engagementEdit

How will you let others in your community know about your project? Why are you targeting a specific audience? How will you engage the community you’re aiming to serve at various points during your project? Community input and participation helps make projects successful.

M-ITI has established relationships with Ethiopian Community Based Organisations through a nation-wide Ethiopian charity and this project will use these networks to ensure community participation. The entire project is designed around community participation and design of energy devices tailored to each community, and around encouraging communities to use the Newton Machine Wiki website through this network.

We will survey each community through the energy assessment initial phase, but also throughout the lifespan of the project as part of the monitoring and evaluation process. We have targeted remote communities for the identified need for cheap access to electricity, and engineering/Computer science student volunteers for their ability to act as a bridge between local communities and local technology institutions and companies. The student volunteers will enable the training and online movement around the Newton Machine Wiki website to spread in other parts of the country and beyond through their own student networks and our community networks.

Get involvedEdit


Please use this section to tell us more about who is working on this project. For each member of the team, please describe any project-related skills, experience, or other background you have that might help contribute to making this idea a success.

James​ ​Auger​ is a full-time Associate Professor at M-ITI, designer, researcher and lecturer whose work examines the social, cultural and personal impacts of technology and the products that exist as a result of its development and application. On graduating from Design Products (MA) at the Royal College of Art in 2001 James moved to Dublin to conduct research at Media Lab Europe (MLE) exploring the theme of human communication as mediated by technology. After MLE he worked in Tokyo as guest designer at the Issey Miyake Design Studio developing new concepts for mobile telephones. Between 2005 and 2015 James was part of the critically acclaimed Design Interactions department at the RCA, teaching on the MA programme and continuing his development of critical and speculative approaches to design and technology, completing his PhD on the subject in 2012. Running parallel to his academic work James is partner in the speculative design practice Auger-Loizeau, a collaboration founded in 2000. Auger-Loizeau projects have been published and exhibited internationally, including MoMA, New York; 21_21, Tokyo; The Science Museum, London; The National Museum of China, Beijing and Ars Electronica, Linz. Their work is in the permanent collection at MoMA. James recently moved to M-ITI in Portugal. His new research explores the potential of the Island as an experimental living laboratory through a combination of fictional, factual and functional multi-scale energy-related proposals and projects.

Elise​ ​Leclerc​ ​is Executive Director of M-ITI and has been involved in Tech for Good for the last 15 years, following a brief stint as a University Lecturer of English Linguistics. Elise has been bridging tech research and social justice when working for MIT Media Lab Europe and the Intel Foundation, in London when leading the commissioning of apps for youth mental health, and currently in Portugal. She has extensive experience of community involvement in multicultural contexts, has worked with Ethiopian NGO Jeccdo and has just finished a study on ‘Social Tech ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa’ with a specific focus on the Ethiopian social tech scene.

Parakram​ ​Pyakurel​ ​is a postdoctoral research fellow at M-ITI. His current research explores design of off-grid renewable energy systems by taking social contexts into account. He holds Master’s degree in “Planning and Operation of Energy Systems” and PhD in engineering. He has written several conference and journal papers on rural and renewable energy systems. He specializes in rural and renewable energy systems and has worked with several renewable energy technologies including hydropower, solar PV and solar thermal, wind, ocean and bio-energy. He has worked with Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) which is a line agency of Ministry of Science and Technology, Nepal. While working with AEPC, he was involved in planning, development and implementation of rural energy projects in Nepal based on Pro- poor public private partnership (5P) model promoted by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Community notificationEdit

You are responsible for notifying relevant communities of your proposal, so that they can help you! Depending on your project, notification may be most appropriate on a Village Pump, talk page, mailing list, etc.--> Please paste links below to where relevant communities have been notified of your proposal, and to any other relevant community discussions. Need notification tips?


Do you think this project should be selected for a Project Grant? Please add your name and rationale for endorsing this project below! (Other constructive feedback is welcome on the discussion page).