Dr. Mattson with a community member he met on his travels.
Dr. Christopher Mattson, director of BYU’s Design Exploration recently traveled to the White House, met President Obama and received an award for his work in poverty alleviation.
“Solving the problems caused by poverty isn’t anything that any one person is going to be able to do, it takes partnerships of concerned people across industries, academia and countries,” said Dr. Mattson.
Dr. Mattson has assembled a group of handpicked students to research engineering solutions that will help alleviate poverty.
“Poverty isn’t just an academic problem, it’s a real life problem,” Mattson said.
Mattson and his students have gotten out of the classroom and traveled to over thirty different developing countries to learn what solutions are needed to alleviate poverty.
"We have created drills to help villagers in Africa find water and carts for people in South America to bring their wares to the market. We’ve done about ten different projects by now and every one of these projects opened our eyes to things we didn’t see when we were back at the lab in Provo, Utah. When we talk to these people in their homes we see what their real needs are," he said.
A real eye-opener for Dr. Mattson came in the form of a thin dark haired Brazilian man named Valdinei. Valdinei owns a local broom shop that employs many members of his town.
“I realized that these Brazilians don’t need more handouts they need more people like Valdinei. He cares a lot about his religion and is the pastor of a local congregation. He’s also quite conscientious that his broom shop has created an industry that employs quite a few people. His broom shop provides a way for his employees to eat and provide shelter for their families. We need more people like him to create industry here,” he said
Dr. Mattson and his students recently built a prototype of a brushmaking machine for Valdinei.
“We believe that this machine will help Valdinei employ more people and boost the local economy. Our goal is to help people like Valdinei create income for themselves and others, he said.
Dr. Mattson plans to visit Valdinei again this summer and present him with the completed machine.
"Our lab is particularly good at designing engineering solutions and identifying the needs these solutions are supposed to meet, but we can’t solve poverty on our own. We're always searching for more funding and we want to form partnerships with companies that can help mass produce our designs and put these products into the hands of those that need them,” he said.