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Discovering India and Its Makers: IDIN Network Member Sahar Abdelhakim Travels Through India, Meeting IDIN Innovators Along the Way

Sunday, October 16, 2016
Sahar Ahmed Abdelhakim Aboukhashim

Sahar (far left) traveled through India this summer, meeting up with fellow IDIN Network members along the way. Credit: Kendra Sharp

Sahar Ahmed Abdelhakim Aboukhashim is an IDIN Network member and biologist from Alexandria, Egypt. Sahar is the inventor of several water purification technologies and won Egypt’s Energy Globe Award in 2013. She attended IDDS Aarogyam in summer 2015, and returned this summer to meet other IDIN Network members and makers throughout India. Here she shares reflections from stops along the way!

In July 2015, I was truly privileged to be selected as one of the participants of IDDS Aarogyam in Chennai, India. Collaborating with a group of talented, passionate, wonderful people from across the world was a great honor for me. This experience changed my life.

India has many social and environmental challenges, so it’s a great place for me to explore and learn more about the environmental sustainability.

So this summer, without any concrete plans, I decided to get back to “Incredible India,” following my passion in environmental sustainability and sustainable designs.

Thanks to my fellow IDIN Network members, I was able to find the right people and the right places.

First stop: Chennai

How could I visit India without visiting the wonderful folks from BS Abdur Rahman University (BSAU), hosts of IDDS Aarogyam!

I reached the Chennai airport at 4:30am to find Abdur and Kaushik from BSAU there to pick me up to my hotel. After that, I met more folks from BSAU during the day. Seeing them gave me more than enough energy I needed to start my real journey!

Having lunch with BSAU team in Chennai, India 

Second stop: Bangalore

By August 27, I reached Bangalore to meet more IDIN Network member, and of course to explore more. I had great luck to meet a group of passionate and talented people there.

I started by meeting my fellow IDIN Network member Abhinav Dey, who started a company called FreeDesign to design products for social impact. FreeDesign trains and employs young people from rural backgrounds to provide them with freelance design projects through which they can sustain their livelihood in new ways.

The Free Design team is also working with rural livelihood organizations to introduce a product used for training unskilled people to do commercial quality wooden block printing on fabrics. You can see a video of the product being tested at Hubli Hospital for Handicapped Block Printing Center here.  


Abhinav Dey, founder of FreeDesign 

A “nook” typically means a corner that offers a sense of security. For IDIN innovation center partner Project DEFY, a “nook” is a space where local kids and adults can safely express, experiment, and experience different domains of learning to find their interests.

During my trip, I visited one of Project DEFY’s nooks in Kaggalipura village, about 20 kilometers away from Bangalore. I was so impressed by all the things going on in this small place. They are using every single corner there. Kids there are growing crops for their own food, recycling (plastic bottles and food wastes), cooking, playing, and working on a different kind of projects. Their projects are usually based on or inspired by open-source ideas found online. In DEFY, learning is led by the kids themselves. There are no teachers, no exams! It’s like you discover your own way to learn and to do whatever you want!

I honored to meet Abhijit Sinha, the founder of Project DEFY, who believes that high quality education should be accessible to everyone, and everyone has the capacity to know what they want to learn better than anyone else. In addition to that, everyone has right to explore their own talent by experimenting a different kind of things!

Visiting a Project DEFY nook

While at Project DEFY, I took their philosophy to heart, creating my own water purification workshops for some of the local young people and adults in which they learned to create their own water purification systems and technologies. 

Sahar delivering a water purification workshop at Project DEFY

Also in Bangalore, I met the MUSEinc team. MUSEinc is a medical device start-up, using and producing open source technologies to improve effective diagnostics at an affordable cost.​ One of their wonderful projects is Taal, a low-cost, highly functional digital stethoscope, designed for both medical professionals and patients to use.

I was truly privileged to meet Dr. Arvind Badrinarayana, the CEO and co-founder of MUSEinc as well as the co-director of Project DEFY. Arvind has first-hand knowledge of the problems in healthcare, wildlife, agriculture across nearly 45 countries. A constant evolution of ideas led Arvind to the founding of MUSEinc and the exploration of synergies that can be accessed through rural makerspaces, distributive manufacturing, and affordable and appropriate technologies

MUSEinc team aims to harness the power of the maker movement to produce advanced, affordable and customizable devices for a variety of needs.

The MUSEinc team in Bangalore

Third stop: Kumaon, Himalaya

I have just reached Avani in Kumaon, Himalaya a few days ago. There are a lot of interesting projects going on here and here I am, just got involved to some work in this incredible place. Stay tuned for updates from my continued adventures in India!