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The TRIZ Challenges

| On 05, Mar 2001

Ian Care

As an experiment, we are setting some “TRIZ challenges” to challenge you to use your TRIZ skills and your knowledge to help to solve a humanitarian or social problem.

We hope that you will submit your results for publication in the TRIZ journal. Comments on any of the challenges are welcome. If you are a student, you may want to take and research a challenge to solve as part of your course or project work.

Send your results, ideas, comments and suggestions for future challenges to challenge@triz-journal.com

Genrich Altshuller gave us TRIZ for free, now it is our turn to use TRIZ for the benefit of the world and our fellow creatures. We hope that you all will rise to one of our challenges this year, and that you will enjoy solving the problems.

TRIZ Challenge

We challenge you to use your TRIZ skills and your knowledge to help solve a humanitarian or social problem. We hope that you will submit your results for publication in the TRIZ journal. Every few months we will set a new challenge – but that does not mean that you cannot continue to work on previous challenges, indeed you may have chosen to work on this for your project or coursework.

Send your results, ideas, comments and suggestions for future challenges to challenge@triz-journal.com

This month’s challenge is on Landmines.

Landmines cost less than $3 each, the new ones are predominately plastic. The automatic removal machines are only suitable for certain terrain and are expensive. Even using relatively cheap labour (e.g. in Africa) the cost of clearing one mine is around $300 (i.e. around 100 times it’s cost). The real problem is not finding mines. We can already do that quite well with metal detectors, ground radar, EM (Electro Magnetic) probes and manual prodders. Despite this the vast bulk of the £600 million or so that has been spent on “Humanitarian Demining Research” has been spent on this already solved problem, and so far has failed to produce any new tools for local deminers in the poor countries.

The real problems are in such areas as: how to clear vegetation that may contain trip-wire mines; how to reliably survey the extent of mined areas which may be contaminated by UneXploded Ordinance (UXO) or caches of arms and not mines as such; and then how to mark them permanently in countries so poor that even painted rocks are likely to be taken because people have another use for them.

Unlike military demining, humanitarian demining is not essentially about finding mines, it is the process of being able to declare land entirely free from all explosive debris; i.e. it is about finding land where there are no mines. Frequently this does not involve any mines, it is simply making sure that a possibly mined area is not actually mined, a process sometimes called Area Reduction. Sniffing technologies are one of the most promising ways of doing this though as yet the only sniffers used in the field are dogs. There are a number of companies pursuing different routes to get the sensitivity high enough to be able to confidently declare an absence of mines.

So the challenges are: How do we mark an area that is known to be mined, or is munitions free in poor countries? How do we give poor people in poor countries the means to clear land to make it habitable and cultivatable?

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Background information can be found in the book by Rae McGrath (co-founder of Mines Action Group) that you like to persuade your local library to buy:

“Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance — A resource book” by Rae McGrath, Pluto Press. 2000.
ISBN 0 7453 1264 0 – It is quite technical in places.
£17.95 from Amazon.co.uk

$79.95 from Amazon.com

The following websites of two of the leading demining NGOs (Non Governmental Organisations) have useful information and more if you follow the links they list:

www.MgM.org and www.MAG.org.uk

There was an article on the topic in New Scientist – Vol 64 number 2212, 13 Nov 1999, pages 52-53.