March 24, 2010 AT 10:00 pm

Amy Smith, lifesaving design – 24 hours of Lady Ada Lovelace day #ald10

Pt 2735

Each hour we are featuring a woman we admire who is currently doing amazing work right in the tech/maker/art/science space. Woman of the hour, Amy Smith.

Amy Smith is a senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT specializing in engineering design and appropriate technology for developing countries. She founded the D-Lab program at MIT which introduces students to technological, social, and economic problems of the Third World. She teaches the courses SP.721/11.025: D-Lab Development, SP.722/2.722: D-Lab Design, and SP.784: Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries. She has taught in the past 2.72: Elements of Mechanical Design.

Smith encourages women to become engineers although she dislikes being referred to as a woman engineer. “Actually, because my class involves humanitarian engineering, I very rarely have more men than women. There have been times where there have been ten women and one man. This isn’t surprising, given that women often want to see an application to what they’re learning that they feel is worthwhile”, says Smith. “But I’m not involved in any particular projects to encourage women engineers, because I dislike being referred to as a woman engineer. I don’t like programs that single out woman engineers as particular achievers just for being women. I think that it should be coincidental.”

Smith’s designs include the screenless hammer mill and the phase-change incubator, and she is also involved with the application of the Malian peanut sheller in Africa. She is also one of the founders of the popular MIT IDEAS Competition.

In 2000 Smith won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize that honors inventors who are also good role models. Smith is the first woman to win the prize. Amy also won a MacArthur Fellowship.

Amy’s page is here.


About today:

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.!) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognized. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines, whatever they do. It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is, what gender you are, what language you blog in, or what you normally blog about – everyone is invited.

Who was Ada? Ada Lovelace Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was one of the world’s first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programs for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.


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