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Frugal Innovation Lab

Frugal Innovation Lab Blog

  •  What happens when you cross 3D printing and Transformers?

    Welcome to the FrugalBlog, Connor O’Brien’s weekly compendium on frugal innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, and social justice. Send comments, criticism or ideas to

    TGIF Frugalites!

    I hope you are feeling prepped and ready for the final week of the quarter. In an effort to help you out, I went back to my old MacBook and pulled up my favorite study play list. It got me through more than enough mid-term and final study sessions and I think it still holds up pretty well despite being fairly dated. I'm going to post a song by a different band every day from now until finals. Hopefully it will serve you as well as it served me. Enjoy!

    Audiophile Music Advisory: Ratatat, "Loud Pipes"

    In the New Year, FIL has been busy busy busy! We had our very first business centric design workshop hosted by Greg Tseng, a graduate business school student, and yours truly. Elizabeth was a huge help in generating the content, helping shape the mission of the workshop, and she got pizza for everyone who attended. So, next time you see her, say thanks, and find out about the next session. We unfortunately don't have any pictures of workshop, but trust me; it was a great time for everyone involved.

    We also had an amazing meeting and brain storming session with the director of Wikipedia's mobile applications to talk about new content delivery systems via SMS messaging and how Frugal Labs can help support their effort to reach emerging markets. 

    Article Link: Hasbro brings 3D printing to Transformers. The world is a better place

    As you may or may not know, we here at the Frugal Labs LOVE 3D printing. In fact, I would venture to say that our love for 3D printing is really only surpassed by our love of renewable energy, global public health, and, of course, transformers.

    When we found out that Hasbro (famous for Monopoly, My Little Pony, and Spider-Man toys to name a few of their massive hits) was partnering with 3D Systems to "co-develop, co-venture and deliver new immersive, creative play experiences powered by 3D printing for children and their families later this year" we were more than a little excited.

    While this partnership doesn’t align directly with our mission of business-centric socially responsibility, it is absolutely a step in the right direction toward making 3D printing a functional tool for the masses. Pretty soon, kids will be growing up using 3D printers to augment and replace broken pieces or design their own toys. By making 3D printing a part of everyday life, an entire market will be created (experts believe as big as $500 Billion by 2025) that will cater to this new demand. This will help drive down prices, increase innovation, and generally make 3D printing cheaper, more affordable, and distributed.

    Having the ability to easily replace broken pieces on an Optimus Prime action figure doesn't exactly help combat global public health or fix the energy crisis in most emerging markets, but it definitely is a positive step towards finding scalable, affordable solutions to these huge problems.

    Too cool not to try: Turn your phone lens into a handheld microscope

    Thanks again for reading, and as always comments, complaints, tips and suggestions can be sent to

    Have a great week!

    The Frugal Lab Team

  •  Wikipedia Rolls Out Articles-via-SMS Service

    Welcome to the FrugalBlog, Connor O’Brien’s weekly compendium on frugal innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, and social justice. Send comments, criticism or ideas to

    Happy Monday, Frugal Friends!

    Wikipedia is revolutionizing the way emerging markets receive information by sending articles via text message.

    Audiophile Music Advisory: ASTR, "R U with Me"

    In a partnership with Bharti Airtel, the world’s third largest mobile telecommunications company and the pioneers of a disruptive business strategy that helped them to offer incredibly low rates to their consumers (2 cents / minute), Wikipedia is creating a pilot project in Africa that will allow users with non-data-enabled smartphones, the norm in Africa and most emerging markets, to access any article in the entire Wikipedia library.

    Article Link: Wikipedia pilots articles-via-SMA service to Africans

    In terms of “last-mile” coverage, this is a great step in the right direction towards breaking down barriers to access to information. We at the Frugal Lab believe in the power of mobile in emerging markets and have dedicated many of our resources to developing mobile, non-data-enabled solutions. Information on mFarm, one of our most recent endeavors, can be found below, but make sure to check out all the others at The Mobile Project Gallery.


    mFarm - Farmers in Kenya used to be isolated, with no information about other farmers and their crops and prices. Project mFarm [10] solved the problem by developing a system in which farmers can use their cellular phone to check information on local crops and prices, enabling them to make better business decisions. As Android phones become widespread in Africa, we have been working with mFarm to develop a more powerful Android interface for their system. Note that mFarm was created by a group of women.       

    Thanks again for reading, and as always comments, complaints, tips and suggestions can be sent to

    Have a great week!

    The Frugal Lab Team


  •  New Scientist -- DIY Diagnostics

     Welcome to the FrugalBlog, Connor O’Brien’s tri-weekly compendium on frugal innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, and social justice. Send comments, criticism or ideas to

    It’s Thursday and the Frugal Innovation Lab is getting some love from the New Scientist!
    In the most recent issue of New Scientist, Sara Reardon wrote an article, DIY Diagnostics for the World’s Poor, highlighting the Frugal Innovation Lab, along with MIT’s Media Labs and Stanford University efforts to combat poverty using frugal innovation. It is a great article, and our own Radha Basu talks about the importance of mobile technology and frugal innovation.
    Check out the PDF of the article below.
    Thanks again for reading, and as always comments, complaints, tips and suggestions can be sent to
    The Frugal Lab Team
  •  Our Dynamic Poverty Heat Map is Going Global!

    Welcome to the FrugalBlog, Connor O’Brien’s tri-weekly compendium on frugal innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, and social justice. Send comments, criticism or ideas to
    Happy Monday Frugalites!
    Who likes data visualization? I know I do, and if you don’t, you should. Why, you may ask? Well, in the words of my good buddy (not really) John W. Tukey, “The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.” That is, at its heart, the promise and purpose of data visualization.
    Here are some classic examples of great data visualization, and also a more contemporary infographics highlighting browser adoption in the early 21st century. Enjoy!
    Audiophile Music Advisory: Panama Wedding, "All of the People"
    Speaking of great data visualization, last year three of our students (Jasmine Farias, Kurt Jurgens and Jonathan Ahumada)  got together to create a Dynamic Poverty Heat Map web application with the goal to assist analysts at the Fundacion Paraguya to better understand their vast amounts of data. By visually representing their data on our heat map, analysts will be able to better understand and utilize various metrics indicating poverty in Paraguay and ultimately reduce it nationwide.
    A more detailed explanation on how it works can be found here.
    Sleep-Dancing Kittens: #AWWW
    And, just last week, the Fundacion Paraguaya officially launched our heat map and it is now being used to help combat poverty! So far the response has been great and we are currently in talks with other governments in Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Indonesia to replicate this heat map for their anti-poverty initiatives! Great work, team!
    Thanks again for reading, and as always comments, complaints, tips and suggestions can be sent to
    Happy Monday,
    The Frugal Lab Team


  •  GSBI Featured in Venture Beat

    Hello Frugalites!

    I’m back. My apologies for being away for so long. I was traveling the world and recovering from a brutal case of the Mondays that turned into a case of the Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. I learned that I don’t handle changing time zones quite like I used to. Anyway, we have a lot of stuff to catch up on, so let’s get to it shall we?
    Some great news for Santa Clara University AND the Frugal Innovation Lab! Venture Beat did an AMAZING story on Santa Clara’s Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) last month. The article can be found here: Venture Beat, GSBI.
    It touches on the history of GSBI and Santa Clara’s overarching mission to do good in the world.  Specifically, it focused on the GSBI’s two key services, the GSBI Accelerator which assists entrepreneurs with investment readiness, preparing business models, developing marketing and talent management strategies and fundraising, and GSBI Online that helps early-stage social enterprises develop business plans and pitches. Together, these two services have helped Santa Clara University to serve over 100 million lives worldwide.
    Will Driverless Cars Change the World?: Driving Sideways
    A list of the 2013 cohort, as well as past alumni can be found below:
    -      Alumni
    If you are interested in applying for the 2014 GSBI Accelerator Cohort, you can apply here! Registration is open beginning today through October 31st.
    If you are interested in applying for the 2014 GSBI Online Cohort, you can send an email to to get on the list. They will email you in January of 2014 when application are available.
    Networking, Learning, Engagement—Oh My!:
    In an effort to try and keep our viewers up-to-date and in the know, the Frugal Innovation Lab is going to be ending each of its posts with upcoming networking events, fundraisers, and a plethora of other professional development engagements. So, make sure to check in here regularly so you don’t miss out.
    Med Tech Frontiers – Thursday, September 5, 2013
    MedTech Frontiers is a continuing series of free events for medical device and life science investors, entrepreneurs, clinicians, and technologists. Join MedTech Frontiers for an evening of food, conversation, and presentations by Silicon Valley luminaries held on the first Thursday of each month.
    This month’s seminar will be brought to you by Bob Kain, the Chief Engineering Officer at Illumina, talking about the history and future of DNA sequencing. For more information, visit, or to complete your registration, click here.
    Events are free, but registration is requested for planning purposes - see the link below. A limited number of on-site registrations are available. If you received this invitation from a colleague, send a note to to receive your own invitation and RSVP. All events start at 6pm and are held at:
    Triple Ring Technologies, 39655 Eureka Dr., Newark, CA 94560.
    Till next time,
    The Frugal Lab Team
  •  Partnership with Cisco for Mobile Social Entrepreneurship

    Good afternoon Frugalites!

    Audiophile Music Advisory: Andrew Bird, "Imitosis"

    Another bit of news about the Frugal Innovation Lab making some moves. As you may or may not know, the Frugal Innovation Lab, in partnership with the Santa Clara University's Center for Science, Technology, and Society, has been in talks with Cisco Systems, Inc—you know, that tiny little startup in San Jose—and nearly 30 other international groups, to agree to move forward with a grant to produce a cloud-based mobile solution to help educate social entrepreneurs.

    Ten, Hut!: The Social Entrepreneur's Playbook

    The end-goal will include a 5-week webinar course run by our very own Radha Basu  to educate and engage social entrepreneurs on how to create a mobile application to meet their various potential solutions.  

    The webinar series will be available starting in October, run through next March, and is available exclusively for social entrepreneurs who are Santa Clara Alumni. This is our first testing phase, so we hope to roll it out to the general population next year.

    If you are interested in applying, go here: GSBI Application

    We are very excited about this partnership, and hope you take interest. Check back here regularly for updates.


    The Frugal Innovation Lab Team

  •  Lab-on-a-Chip Field Test Findings

    Good Morning!

    This’ll be quick and easy. We have another update on Lab-on-a-Chip’s field test. If you recall, a few weeks back, one of our Students, Jessica VanderGiessen, who is working alongside Professor Ashley “Unyoung” Kim, recently completed testing the Lab-on-a-Chip arsenic detector in the Bangladesh. 
    Jessica presented her findings to Professor Kim and the results were pretty positive, but as with any design project, there is still a long way to go.
    The main purpose of this field test was to compare two methods, Cyclic Voltammetry (CV) & Anode Stripping Voltammetry (SV), in a real-world setting with high arsenic concentrations to determine if current testing protocols used in lab settings could still be applied.
    Additionally, the Lab-on-a-Chip sensor has a number of design constraints with numerous variable substitutes. This field test would hopefully help to filter through some of the noise and narrow the scope of materials used in future designs and field tests.
    The Anode Stripping method proved to be far more successful than the Cyclic Voltammetry method with a success rate of nearly 95% compared to 8%. Additionally the Anode Stripping method was able to confirm the control samples to be arsenic free with 100% accuracy. Pretty great stuff!
    Keep it up, Jessica!
    Venture Lab -- Design Thinking: Design and Innovate
    Since we are on the topic of innovation and design, I thought it would be a great time to plug Stanford’s Venture Lab Courses. Part of the Learning Design and Technology center within the college of education, Venture Labs recently began to offer free, on-line courses in design, technology and innovation. We highly encourage you to check it out.
    Till next time,
    The Frugal Innovation Lab Team


  •  The Frugal Innovation Lab Meets with 3D PrintCraft

    A lot of great news today for the Frugal Innovation Lab! First, one of our partner orgs blogged about us, and now, a long awaiting meeting with 3D PrintCraft is finally happening!

    We are HUGE fans of 3D printing at the Frugal Innovation Lab. How could you not be!? It brings the power of manufacturing to your home! Pretty incredible.

    3D PrintCraft started in the not-to-distant past with (full disclosure) a grant from Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology and Society. 3D PrintCraft’s mission is to provide social entrepreneurs with authenticated solutions that are ready for real deployment in the world today.

    Visit their site here to learn more: 3D PrintCraft

    In keeping with the 3D printing theme, we recently saw that UPS is going to be offering 3D printing services in San Diego! While 3D printing is a very exciting and new technology, it isn’t quite cost-effective…yet. But, it is getting close and closer, so every little step that it takes towards becoming more accessible is progress in our book.

    Take a look here: UPS to offer 3D printing in San Diego

    Great work, 3D PrintCraft! Keep it up!


    The Frugal Lab Team

  •  NetHope Features Frugal Labs on its Blog!

    NetHope, a humanitarian organization focused on serving the developing world through smarter use of technology, and one of our partners, just gave the Frugal Innovation Lab (and the FrugalBlog) a shout out!

    Read it here: SCU Frugal Innovation Lab Launches Project Galleries & Blog

    Thanks NetHope! Here’s to a great, and continuing partnership,


    The Frugal Lab Team

  •  Frugal Lab Presents during ENGR 1

     Welcome to the FrugalBlog, Connor O’Brien’s weekly compendium on frugal innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, and social justice. Send comments, criticism or ideas to

    Hello Frugal Lab followers! Sorry for the radio silence the last couple of weeks, school started up and we have been BUSY. Lots to update you on but first, your audiophile advisory.

    Audiophile Music Advisory: The Zolas, "Knot in my heart"

    Our very own Radha Basu taught ENGR 1 – Introduction to Engineering at the Frugal Innovation Lab at the beginning of this quarter. ENGR 1 seeks to introduce different engineering disciplines to new engineering students like interdisciplinary aspects of engineering, engineering professionalism, ethics, and civic engagement. The Frugal Innovation Lab is one of eight modules during this course.


    Over the course of this class, Frugal Innovation Lab presented our unique brand of socially responsible engineering to over 180 students!  


    Thanks again for reading, and as always comments, complaints, tips and suggestions can be sent to


    Happy Humpday!

    The Frugal Lab Team


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Frugal Innovation Lab |  Bannan Labs Building 404
500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053
1-408-554-2334 |