d-school Afrika graduates powered up for clean energy solutions

The Hasso Plattner d-school Afrika presented its Foundation Programme in Design Thinking to its fifteenth cohort from August to October this year. This cohort was also the third to be hosted at the HPI d-school building, which opened its doors in October 2022.

The programme was presented over 10 weeks and this cohort consisted of four teams of students from various academic backgrounds, each team guided by a dedicated design-thinking coach.

The partners for the 2023 second-semester programme were HyTrA (Hydrogen Tryout Areal for Microgrids in South Africa) and the Goedgedacht Trust.

In addition, the programme contributors were Oribi, CatalyzU, and Bertha House. Contributing to the practice sessions, each of these contributors afforded the programme participants an introduction to organisations using design thinking principles in their respective operating contexts. These included social activism, start-ups and innovation, social design and food justice.

The practice sessions demonstrate to participants the different possibilities and directions they can take as design thinking practitioners and affords them the opportunity to establish and leverage networks that may support them in bringing their ideas to life.

Experience designer, Nondo-Jacob Sikazwe, was also involved with the Prototyping Deep-Dive Day as a design expert. This session was used to expose the participants to a wide range of prototyping tools used by design experts across different industries.


The Challenge

The design challenge posed to this cohort was to leverage technology to improve clean-energy access for farming communities where loadshedding reduces a farm’s production capacity.

HyTrA, the programme partner, was also interested in exploring some possible answers to the following questions relating to this challenge:
  1. What do farmers need to run their own power supply?
  2. What would be needed to increase the acceptance to run the container by farmers?
  3. How else can this be made to valuably impact the surrounding communities?

Each team on the programme focused on different aspects and real-world scenarios of where this challenge is faced on the Goedgedacht farm.

The Teams and their Proposed Solutions

JAMZES Solution
Team Jamzes

Coached by Evan Robinson, Team Jamzes looked at finding new ways for a farm manager to integrate sustainable energy sources into irrigation where there are often constraints to the irrigation process due to inconsistent power supply.

This issue often leads to crop losses, as well as a loss in the overall investment in the farm.

The Solution

To mitigate this challenge, the Jamzes proposed a raised water storage tank which converts kinetic energy into an energy source to power the irrigation system when there’s no electricity on the farm. 

Combining the benefits of hydro- and wind-power technology, this aims to create a more reliable and efficient energy generation and water supply system.

Fantastic 4our Solution
Team Fantastic 4our

The Fantastic 4our looked at ways for farm workers to expand their – and the community’s – skill sets and remain relevant. In addition, the team coached by Levina Perumal, also explored ways to empower farm workers to pursue careers beyond the farm.

The Solution

The Fantastic 4our proposed a development programme that aims to equip farm workers with a range of skills which also contribute to productivity on the farm itself.

This programme seeks to build capacity for local farmers and could be integrated into the Goedgedacht Trust’s Path Onto Prosperity programme – an existing development programme championed by the programme partner.

Innovation Nation Solution
Team Innovation Nation

The Innovation Nation team, coached be Sinalo Bambeni, investigated how to simplify jargon for new energy systems for logistics, procurement and IT managers working on farms. They found that the jargonised information available to these managers often leave them feeling disengaged or blindsided.

The Solution

Innovation Nation proposed a website connecting farmers to vetted green energy service providers and industry experts. The purpose of this platform is to provide farmers with the relevant information when they’re planning to purchase or maintain new energy systems.

Gratitude Galaxies Solution
Team Gratitude Galaxies

Gratitude Galaxies, coached by Bradwin Sitzer, looked at ways for farm maintenance workers to stay informed and engaged with logistics and operations on the Goedgedacht farm.

They found that when the farm purchases new equipment, the maintenance workers who are responsible for maintaining it, don’t always receive the relevant information on how to conduct this.

The Solution

Using a user-centric approach, Gratitude Galaxies proposed an app that connects these maintenance workers to a database of up to date information on how to maintain new and existing farm equipment.

The information can be accessed by scanning QR codes placed on the farm equipment via any smartphone.

Watch the highlights from the
second-semester Foundation Programme in Design Thinking here
– and also hear what our project partners had to say.

More About the Foundation Programme in Design Thinking

The Foundation Programme in Design Thinking aims to equip students with

  • an understanding of design thinking mindsets and processes;
  • an understanding of the role empathy plays in human-centred design;
  • creative confidence to discover and solve real-world problems;
  • the ability to identify and illustrate stakeholder relations in wicked-problem ecosystems;

The 10-week programme further affords them with the opportunity to examine solutions and appraise user feedback to demonstrate empathetic design practices, while also learning to operate effectively and communicate collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams.

Throughout the programme, students also create presentations and artefacts to communicate their creative ideas.

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