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Heather Fleming

Menlo Park, CA, United States


Member since August 17, 2008

  • Catapult Launch Party

    Poverty, Industrial Design


    It's official. Like any good catapult, this design consultancy is launching! Please help Catapult Design celebrate on Thursday, July 23, 2009, at the urban-chic Element Lounge, 1028 Geary Street, San Francisco. Doors will be open from 6pm to 10pm. Enjoy good drinks, good music, and good company. At 8pm, Catapult co-founders Heather Fleming and Tyler Valiquette will give a brief presentation about the organization. Tickets will be sold at the door for $10 or online at

    Catapult Design is a non-profit design consultancy that provides vital engineering and implementation support to organizations in need of technologies or products capable of igniting social change. For more information, visit


  • Pop!Tech 2008 Social Innovation Fellows: Part Two

    Arts & Culture, Industrial Design


    At the end of day 3 at Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellows Program and it's been a non-stop two days. Our programs run 13 hours per day -- our brains are constantly absorbing new information and being stretched and pulled to the limits. On top of that, most of us are deep in the midst of funding and communications. After a long day at the Point Lookout Conference Center, we had back to our cabins to put in a few hours of work. Four hours later we wake up and repeat the cycle.

    With that said, Pop!Tech treats its guests like royalty. They do their very best to reward their Fellows with comfort, mentorship, tools, and contacts. Did I mention that there's heaps of food on demand?

    Day two featured two intense sessions: "Funding Social Innovation" and "Taking Projects to Scale." Jon Balen of Canaan Ventures headed off "Funding" and Jim Koch and Kevin Starr led "Taking Projects to Scale." In the latter, each Fellow's organizations was individually evaluated by best evaluation metrics for economies of scale.

    Day three tapped into our creative sides with a morning session on "Digital Storytelling" led by David Sasaki. We finished out afternoon with "Media Training" by Fenton Communication and topped the evening with a personal conversation with Paul Polak, founder of International Development Enterprise and Bunker Roy, founder of Barefoot College in India. Both Polak and Roy shared their stories of what drives their enormou...

  • Catapult Design at Pop!Tech 2008: Part One

    Arts & Culture, Industrial Design


    Welcome to the Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellows Program.

    What is Pop!Tech? It's a non-profit focused on facilitating the conversation on the social impact of technology and innovation on people. Every year they host an annual conference in Camden, Maine and although this will be my first year in attendance, my impressions are: forward-thinking, connecting, and embracing opportunity. The type of people that attend PopTech are the type of people who make great things happen.

    What is the Social Innovation Fellows Program? A group of sixteen high-potential transformational change agents working on technology development for poor people throughout the world. Our 4-day training program includes workshops from industry leaders on: Branding, Design for Social Change, Digital Storytelling, Funding Social Change, Media Training, and Taking Projects to Scale. Each workshop is designed to make each of us more effective as leaders and social entrepreneurs.

    Before I left for Maine I had a few stressful, sleepless nights getting ready for the Fellows program. I boarded a red-eye to Portland, Maine and then napped through the two-hour drive to Camden, a small Norman Rockwell-esque community. We're housed at Point Lookout, a gorgeous resort center overlooking the ocean bay, Oh, and did I mention that the leaves are turning this month? It's a beautiful, serene setting.

    "Brand Camp" with Cheryl Heller, Heller Communication Design It's day one of the program and our first worksho...

  • Ewb_rocks_132_

    Last night EWB's Rock Crusher team met at The Shipyard in Berkeley to run a full system test of their first rock crushing prototype. Why rock crushing? Great question. The rock crusher was initiated by "A Single Drop for Safe Water," a Filipino non-profit that implements bio-sand filtration (BSF) manufacturing facilities in communities that need clean drinking water. In a few of the regions their working there is a lack of appropriate sized sand for filter media. This requires shipping in sand in order to construct the BSFs. (expensive) However, there is gravel sized river bed sediment available in these communities. If only they had a device that could crush down these stones into a size and shape suitable for the filter meda. Enter Engineers Without Borders. EWB began working with A Single Drop earlier this year and started prototype fabrication this summer.

    There's still a lot to learn about crushing rocks, but if the team is successful, this technology is also planned for implementation in Africa. Gemma Bulos, one of the founders for A Single Drop was also present at last night's session. Exciting stuff. More to come as the Rock Crushers continue to make progress....

  • Continuing Gary Zeiff's story of his travels in Tanzania. Gary is on Catapult Design's technology advisory committee:

    "5AM call for prayer wake me up. I'm dreaming that I'm back in Arusha, backtracking to when I landed in Kilimanjaro, but actually I'm in Bukoba. The dream is full of anxiety, but most of that has really washed away, now that I'm so close. Perhaps too it is about the new set of challenges to face. Bigger and more complicated, these are about starting the project, helping people, and putting tools and technology where it might not have been in the past.

    Wandering around Bukoba with Joel and Cynthia I see a small town much like those in India or even Haiti. Chaotic, noisy, and even dirty, people go about their lives much like they do anythwere else in the world. It's exciting to try out the few words of Swahili and see people's faces light up. This is the small connection that makes me happy that I'm here. We meet William from Kiroyerea Tours who has helped me with my inter Tanzania travels. Joel met him earlier and we will get some equipment sent to his office for pick up later. He's a warm affable man with a quick smile and generous spirit. He knows Leonard, our main contact for this project and explains that he is very well known in the area. William explains that he has done a lot of good for the people living here. Its' exciting to know that we have lucked onto a good contact.

    We investigate batteries and stores selling solar equipment....

  • Mg_9024_132_

    Gary Zeiff, founder of dissigno in San Francisco and Catapult Design Advisor, recently reached his destination in Africa after a long, arduous journey. Gary is working on a project that won his a grant from the World Bank's Development Marketplace competition. Gary's first email below:

    "Figurative tears run down my cheeks. After 5 days, 3 planes, 3 continents, many taxis, buses and cars myself and my precious cargo is a mere two hours jeep ride from the final destination. In this modern age, it really hasn't been difficult, but rather time consuming to get the pedal generator, a bunch of supplies, and all the cargo to keep my mortal coil spinning here on African soil. Cynthia (Joel's girlfriend) and I step down from the 19 seater turbo prop plane onto the red dirt runway of Bukoba and are greeted by Joel and William. The flight was exciting over Lake Victoria. The more so as we neared Karagwe dragging the large metal container carrying the pedal generator. It is nearing the end of this leg of the journey, but also the start of something new and exciting.

    Although I don't see much of Bukoba after landing, it smells and feels like the Africa I have been dreaming about since starting this project. It is lush and green. The roads are mostly red dirt packed hard after numerous carts, people and cars have driven it. It has a humid feel that I will get used to. Siting in the front seat of the van I watch the shore of Lake Victoria roll past.

    It is nice to be m...

  • Path_offices_177_

    This weekend's trip took me to Washington State to visit two very different organizations -- PATH in Seattle and GRuB in Olympia. Operating budget for PATH: $200million. Operating budget for GRuB: less than a million. PATH: heaquartered in Seattle, 20-something field offices around the world, and an office in DC. GRuB: an organically growing effort operating within the local community. Two very different non-profits -- two very different approaches to fundraising.

    The key for PATH is a partnership with the Gates Foundation. PATH's technology department has over 15 staff members including managers, engineers, and technicians. Their technology development is derived internally. Thier focus: high-volume health technologies that will reach millions of people in the developing world. While there, I saw the recently launched female condom, the vaccine vial monitors (indicates when vaccine is spoiled), transdermal drug delivery device, and a device that prevents contamination between injections when using a multiple-use injector. These are a far cry from the "appropriate technology" true bloods who tout locally available materials, income generation, community-maintained, etc. etc. Nonetheless, these are the tools needed to help prevent disease in poverty-stricken communities. In general, I rarely come across groups that are focused on health technologies. This is only the second group that I've found, although I don't doubt there's more.

    GRuB, on the other hand, is all ...

  • Solar Panels for the Developing World?

    Environment, Industrial Design


    Every time I tell people about my line of work, they immediately tell me about their idea for a solar powered (insert your gadget here). I know their intentions are good -- generating energy from the sun is a wonderful thing, it's less polluting than harvesting oil and depleting natural resources. However, I question whether or not solar cells are appropriate for the developing world. Yes, I've read a few of the published papers on the benefits of solar and successful solar programs implemented in developing world communities. But if environmentalism is your argument, then you have to consider the full life cycle of the panel and the affect is have on developing world communities. They're likely shipped in from China and once they "break", they're tossed into the street. Almost everything in the developing world is salvaged and re-used for a secondary purpose. Solar panels? Does anyone know what happens to the cheap-o mini panels on store shelves in Africa and India? They're not readily re-used and they're full of toxic materials. There's little to no infrastructure in place to "properly dispose" of used panels. Or anything for that matter.

    There's a fine line between looking out for people in the present vs. looking out for future generations. I think there's a middle ground. In the case of solar, it's alternatives like wind-power, human-power generation, micro-hydro, bio-fuels, etc. Many of these renewable technologies are mechanical systems, which are ...

  • Inspirational Females

    Community, Industrial Design


    The development community is blessed with several amazing women leaders. I've been volunteering with Engineers Without Borders for several years now and have met some amazing people doing amazing things. I'm an engineer by training, so I'm not accustomed to seeing so many females around. Unfortunate, but true. However, through my volunteer work I've met some of the amazing females advocating social equality around the world -- some in their spare time and others are also budding entrepreneurs.

    Anurupa Rao - is a design engineer at D2M Inc, but in her spare time she's developing an extremely low-cost water storage container with International Development Enterprises for farmers in Myanmar. She's also an active volunteer in Engineers Without Borders

    Emily Pilloton -- founded a non-profit in San Francisco called Project H Design. Her focus is using design to address some of the world's most pressing humanitarian needs. She's currently expanding her non-profit.

    Ann Torres -- a mechanical engineer at Function Design who also leads an Appropriate Technology Design Team, focused on technology design development for the developing world.

    Erica Estrada -- co-founder of d.Light Design, a for-profit organization based in India that develops high-quality LED lighting for low-income communities throughout India... and soon the world, I hope.

    Jocelyn Wyatt -- leading the Social Impact + Business Factors group at IDEO, one of the world's largest design firms. Jocelyn has a long list of...

  • Rotors_177_

    I sure could use a wind tunnel right about now. Anyone out there have a spare one in their backyard? The trouble with trying to test a wind turbine on the cheap is that you'll continuously be frustrated with your results. You'll keep saying, "If only I had a _." Our team has been at the point several times over the past couple months -- so I've made the executive decision to fork over the cash for a much needed data acquisition system. Now, if only I could source a wind tunnel...

    Wind turbine improvements this week include the addition of "caps" on the blades (see above photo). The fabulous Charlie Snyder retrofitted our turbine friend with three plywood disks that will help force the wind to blow through the blades. High School (!!) kids tested out this concept back in August with promising results. Regardless, next steps for the turbine (besides more testing) include analyzing more rotor configurations based on the test results from two weeks ago. Planning on more prototyping sessions in the upcoming weekends.

    Highlights for the wind turbine:

    • Ralf Hotchkiss joined us in today's session. Ralf is the founder of Whirlwind Wheelchair, a local organization that's been generating wheelchairs for the developing world for two decades.
    • We've also had another fabulous organization express interest in the turbine design. Could possibly be tested out in Africa in the next few months.

Product Design for the Developing World

Contact Heather Fleming
Catapult Design

My Interests

  • Industrial Design
  • Environmental Design
  • Communication Design
  • Fashion Design
  • Audio/Visual Design