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Frugal Innovation Lab

Frugal Innovation Lab Blog

  •  Emergency Power for Emerging Markets

     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


    Sorry for the radio silence last week my fellow Frugalites. Unfortunately, my real-world responsibilities kicked up a few notches last week making it very difficult to sit down and compose posts for Wednesday and Friday’s. Please accept my most humble apologies.
    I’ll be posting last week’s entries along with today’s entry tonight and tomorrow afternoon. For now, enjoy the old school music courtesy of Sting, and learn more about our project to provide emergency power for hospitals in under-developed countries
    Daily Audiophile Advisory: Sting, “Englishman in New York”
    This project arose out of the need for hospitals to have a reliable, cheap, and easily maintained secondary source of power. In emerging markets where energy can be unreliable and under produced it is essential that hospitals have a second form of energy that can sustain the various instruments and machines keeping people alive.
    This problem led our engineers, Erik McAdams, Hugo Mailloux-Beauchemin, and Jonathan Chimento, to investigate the potential for installing roof-integrated wind turbine systems in Nicaragua to provide hospitals with a secondary source or power by harnessing hurricane winds.
    Specifically, they took a project from a previous group who designed wind turbines with wind-facing, airfoil shaped geometry that allowed the turbines to withstand up to Category 2 hurricane winds. The Frugal Lab thought this new design could be applied to the real world and turned into a valuable asset for an emerging market located in the coast.
    Specifics on their design, methodology and proposed implementation can be found here: Emergency Power for Hospitals in Under-Developed Countries.
    Trash Talking Robots: Rory vs Jeff
    Thanks again for reading, and as always comments, complaints, tips and suggestions can be sent to
    The Frugal Lab Team
  •  Lab-on-a-Chip (Update!)

    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 belated Monday or, Tuesday, as the layman may call it. Sorry for missing yesterday, life got in the way, and I wasn’t able to get my post out. Please accept my deepest apologies. How about I make it up to you with a double whammy of fun internet links and updates on some cool new goings on in the world of science, technology and Frugal innovation?

    Wham: The Economist – Emerging vs. Developed Economies

    Bam: Plotting the Landscape of Digital Information

    Daily Audiophile Advisory: Ellie Goulding - Burn

    Remember last week when I said I would update everyone if there was any new news regarding Lap-on-a-Chip? Well, guess what, I have news!  

    One of our resident mentors and professor of bioengineering, Dr. Ashley “Unyoung” Kim and her student Jessica VanderGiessen recently completed testing the Lab-on-a-Chip arsenic detector in the field.

    They were able to collect 38 samples with varying degrees of arsenic contamination. Jessica will be working through the week to process all the data she collected, monitor the data flow from the senor to the app, and test its validity. She is planning on having a full report ready next Monday, July 29th at 9am. Our fingers are crossed!

    Here are some pictures she took of her work in the field.   


    Thanks again for reading, 


    The Frugal Lab Team




  •  Energy Made in Uganda

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


    It’s Friday everyone! And what better way to say TGIF than an interactive dolphin!
    Nothing of any major importance has been going on in the world of science and technology today, so what do you say to us jumping right into it?
    Daily Audiophile Advisory: Santana, “Primavera,” 1999.
    Energy Made in Uganda (EMIU) is a community-based organization located in Mpigi, Uganda. EMIU’s goal is to goal is to create a fully supported and maintainable solar energy infrastructure for the people of Uganda. Our Frugal Innovation Lab engineers partnered with EMIU and four local Ugandan students to train them in solar manufacturing, installation and servicing. The specifics of their efforts can be found here.
    Climate Change Matters: Climate change 101 with Bill Nye.
    As part of the project, our engineers developed a new electronic system, and trained the Ugandan students on how to maintain the panels in an efficient, affordable and serviceable manner. 
    We love this project because it addresses an emerging market need that assists the Ugandan economy by increasing its human capital through education. By helping Uganda invest in the education of its people, the partnership between Energy Made in Uganda and the Frugal Innovation Lab will help create more sustainable, long-term economic growth.
    We also think it is important to highlight the environmental benefits of this kind of project. Uganda’s initiative to focus on clean, sustainable energy for their country is great news for environmentalists out there. It isn’t exactly a well-kept secret that emerging markets are some of the greatest contributors of pollution and greenhouse gases in the world.
    The Frugal Innovation Lab isn’t passing judgment here, we understand the need for energy by any means in emerging markets. It is an important step in the evolution of a country’s economy. But, that doesn’t mean that pollution and greenhouse gases can be dismissed as a necessary evil.
    If projects like Energy Made in Uganda can be proven to be effective, reliable and sustainable models for energy in emerging markets, there may be the potential for these markets to leap frog the fossil fuel stage of energy dependence and immediately become a part of, and maybe even a global leader in the use of renewable energy.
    Thanks again for reading,
    The Frugal Lab Team
  •  Project Omoverhi

    Welcome to the FrugalBlog, Connor O’Brien’s tri-weekly compendium on frugal innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, and social justice. Send comments, criticism or ideas
    Happy Wednesday, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I could use a little bit of a pick-me-up, so how about a POV video of a train topping out at 267 mph? Speaking of fast trains, did you hear that Elon Musk—founder of Space X and Tesla— thinks he can create a “hyperloop”? In his own words it is “a cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table.” Supposedly it can reach speeds upwards of 4,000 miles per hour, and get you from LA to NYC in 45 minutes. The future is now. Enough about trains, though. Let’s talk about Project Omoverhi.
    Daily Audiophile Advisory:The Civil Wars, “From This Valley.”
    Project Omoverhi was conceived by SCU alumna, Simi Olabisi, as her senior project back in 2011. Olabisi teamed up with her fellow students Collin Burdick, Katherine Fazackerley, Ben Frederiksen, Nick Greos, Katherine Mardula, Matt Renner, Maria Veronica, Lleva Bass, and Kristen Lee to create a low-cost, solar-powered neonatal incubator for emerging markets. The end result was nothing short of remarkable.  
    After months of meeting with experts in the neonatal field at Stanford University Hospital, rural health clinics and government-run hospitals in urban centers in Nigeria, Team Omoverhi created a $2,000 neonatal incubator that was vastly cheaper and in many ways outperformed existing models.
    Team Omoverhi is Frugal Innovation at its best. They identified a problem: 4 million babies die each year before their first birthday, of that 4 million, 1.8 would have likely lived had then been kept warmer during their first week of life. Targeted a market: rural, underfunded and under-staffed health clinics in Nigeria. And then developed a solution: a better performing, cheaper neonatal incubator.
    By applying business concepts to an altruistic goal, Team Omoverhi was able to hit the sweet spot of “doing good” while creating a product that can add to the bottom line. Well done Team Omoverhi!
    Team Omoverhi is still perfecting their product. We’ll update the FrugalBlog with details as soon as we get them.
    Thanks again for reading,

    The Frugal Lab Team 

  •  Clean Water: Lab-on-a-Chip

     Welcome to the FrugalBlog, Connor O’Brien’s tri-weekly compendium on frugal innovation, technology, entrepreneurship, and social justice. Send comments, criticism or ideas
    It’s Monday, I know. Don’t worry; together we’ll get through it. Here is a bonus injection of fun to help you get through the day:
    Now that you are an expert in Mantis Shrimp, let’s get serious about clean water in emerging markets. Specifically, according to 780 million people in the world lack access to clean drinking water and sanitation. That is roughly 9% of the world’s population. More tragically, the lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.    
    Let those facts sink in for a bit… Pretty depressing, right?
    Luckily, there are some amazing people out there doing fantastic work to help put a stop to this unbelievably solvable problem.  Take for example, Michael Pritchard. He gave a Ted Talk back in August of 2009. His ingenious idea was to mobilize water filtration and put it in the hands of the people who need clean water the most.
    While this is a great solution and addresses a major issue, we at the Frugal Innovation Lab wondered about the identification of safe or unsafe drinking water. Isn’t it important to know what it is that you are actually drinking? Couldn’t additional data help to potentially identify the symptom to treat the problem?
    So, we tasked our students with creating a solution. After months of Sonny Gandhi, Zuhayr Elahi, John Seubert, Ben Demaree, and Jessica VanderGiessen developed the “Lab-on-a-Chip Arsenic Detector” (LOACAD).
    Their product is a cheap, disposable plastic sensor that can be dipped into any water source to detect and provide data to an android smart phone on arsenic levels. Additional details and information on the arsenic levels can be drilled into through the app for further analysis.
    This Summer, the sensor and app are being field tested for QA. Those finding will be brought back to the Lab for further development and improvements. We’ll make sure to update you as progress is made!
    Thanks again for reading,

    The Frugal Lab Team 

  •  Overview of Blog Content

    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 Friday, and welcome to the FrugalBlog! Today is our third and final post of our first week! Cue the parade, sound the alarm, call the President. OK, fine, that may be a little over the top, but we are excited to wrap up our first week! This last post will lay out what you can expect from the FrugalBlog every week. As always, if you have any comments, suggestions, complaints, etc. don’t hesitate to contact us at

     Daily Double: Musical Recommendation with Flamethrowers

    We will be posting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1pm with each post being dedicated to one of our three main areas of interest: clean water, global public health, and renewable energy. Ideally, we will highlight one of our student projects and the work they are doing to provide a product or solution to the problem.

    We are, however, more than just a promotional tool for our amazing students, we passionately believe in the Frugal Lab mission to develop accessible and affordable technologies, products and solutions for emerging markets. We will try to foster a dialog, raise awareness, and promote our belief that altruism and “doing good” is not only the right thing to do, but it makes smart business sense, too.

    In search of Optimality: Multiplication tables taught in school are inefficiently large.

    Finally, we will be producing a quarterly newsletter that will provide subscribers with a higher-level overview of what the Frugal Innovation Lab has accomplished and what it plans to do in the next quarter.

    Thanks again for reading,

    The Frugal Lab Team

  •  Introduction to the Frugal Innovation Lab

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

    Hello, and welcome again to the FrugalBlog! Today we are introducing the Frugal Innovation Lab team and giving you a little more insight into what it is we are actually doing here at the Frugal Innovation Lab.
    So, without further ado…
    The Frugal Innovation Lab Team
    Connor O’Brien Social Media Specialist
    Connor O’Brien is a second-year Graduate Student at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. Originally from Colorado, Connor came to the Bay Area to pursue his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley. Connor then moved to Washington, DC where he worked in the United States Senate on education and technology policy. Shortly thereafter, Connor began working as a software consultant. Connor’s main interests lie in the intersection of education, technology and policy.
    Elizabeth Sweeney Program Manager, Frugal Innovation Lab
    Elizabeth Sweeny is a Bay Area native, and a recent Santa Clara University graduate. Elizabeth majored in business management, with a minor in political science that emphasized Middle Eastern foreign policy.  As both a student and a professional, Elizabeth's passions have led her to focus on sustainability and social improvement causes.  Working with Silicon Valley environmental non-profits, a green technology mechanical engineering start-up firm, and volunteering with pediatric hospital patients have all strengthened her intense desire to delve into broad projects that yield significant social benefit. Read the full profile 
    Rhada Basu  Dean's Executive Professor, School of Engineering
    Radha Basu has over 30 years experience in executive management. She is widely recognized as a leading woman entrepreneur in technology companies and as a pioneer in the Indian software business. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Electronics & Communications from the University of Madras, a master's degree in Computer Science from the University of Southern California, and is a graduate of the Stanford Executive Management program. Read the full profile
    Data is Beautiful, but Reality is Not:We Can’t Grow Enough Food to Feed the World
    About the Frugal Innovation Lab
    The Frugal Innovation Lab is sponsored by the Santa Clara University’s School of Engineering (SoE) and directed by Radha R. Basu. Basu incubated the idea of the Frugal Innovation Lab as a way to marry instruction, innovation and immersion experiences with appropriate, adaptable, affordable, and accessible technologies, products and solutions developed by our students to address human needs in emerging markets.

    Frugal innovation is a process of problem solving that focuses on ruggedization, simplification, sparing use of low-cost raw materials, an emphasis on earth-friendly practices and a philosophy that favors "doing more with less" in creating compassionate, user-centric design.


    The Frugal Innovation Lab focuses on creating products and solutions in three main need areas: clean water, global public health and renewable energy. With the vibrancy of emerging-market growth, the School of Engineering's Frugal Innovation Lab meets this new paradigm head-on by offering undergraduate and graduate gourses, hosting hosting student and faculty research projects, and partnering with field-based social entrepreneurs in emerging markets.  
    Impactful work is being done in simple yet powerful ways. Projects range from designs and prototypes to implemented and utilized products and services. Students learn within the lab as well as interact with field-based social entrepreneurs and global partners to solve real-world problems.
    Music recommendations interlude: Andrew Belle, “The Ladder,” 2010.
    What We’ve Done:
    Since the Frugal Innovation Lab’s inception in April 2012, our students (with some help from faculty, of course) have conceived, designed and implemented 20 different products and solutions ranging from affordable Arsenic detectors to creating a sustainable educational support structure around local solar panels in Uganda to creating a free-to-use Fair-Trade Calculator.
    For a complete list of what we’ve accomplished so far, please visit our project gallery. And, if you have any additional questions, inquiries or thoughts on what we’ve created please do not hesitate to contact us.
    A physicist, a mathematician and an engineer walking into a bar...What’s the most intellectual joke you know?
    Where We Are Going:
    Elizabeth and Rhada have been working overtime to line up a new set of projects, cooperative partnerships and concepts to pursue for this coming school year. While it is a little too early to give all the details, we are planning on making an announcement in the next month regarding a corporate partnership we are very excited about.
    Since it is the Summer time, we are in a bit of a lull, but we are hard at work lining things up for this coming school year, so please continue to check back here for updates on classes, projects, events, speakers and more.
    Thanks for reading,

    The Frugal Lab Team 

  •  Welcome to the FrugalBlog

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

    Hello! And welcome to the first ever Frugal Innovation Lab (FIL) at Santa Clara University blog post! Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, we are sponsored by the Santa Clara School of Engineering with the mission to use frugal innovation to develop accessible, affordable and adaptable technologies, products and solutions for emerging markets.
    A Porpoise Intermission:The Porpoise
    This blog is meant to be an informative, collaborative and fun space to taut the achievements of our amazing students, provide a centralized location for information on Frugal Lab’s various events, speakers, courses and projects and promote our version of frugal innovation that is strongly tied to social justice. But, Frugal Innovation Lab isn’t just about students doing “good,” it is a holistic approach that is at the intersection of altruism and the bottom line.
    New Music Interlude: A Hiatus in Helsinki
    So, we invite you to come check us out! We’ll be posting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1pm with our main focus areas of Clean Water, Global Public Health and Renewable Energy driving the content of the day.
    We look forward to interacting with you in the future!
    The Frugal Lab Team

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