Designing In Crisis with Dara Dotz – Ep3

Born to Design Podcast - Dara DotzI have been in crisis situations before.  In my basement during a tornado and without power in a blizzard, but these were over in a day, and not really the “crisis” situations that some people in our world encounter.  Many people around this world go through horrific natural and political disasters, while just trying to stay alive.

There are some people who see these disasters as opportunities, and jump right into the storm (pun intended).  Dara Dotz is one of these people.  Dara and her co-workers at Field Ready offer a different approach to helping those in need, and actually design and produce needed items on location.  I invite you to hear her amazing story in this version of the Born to Design Podcast:  “Designing in Crisis”…

Learn more about how Field Ready uses SOLIDWORKS on this “The Power of Recovery” page, which includes a full video, INFOGRAPHIC, and more…

To help out Field Ready, go to their website here...

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Full Transcription

Dara Dotz 0:02
I went to Haiti first. And it was two years after the earthquake. Just trying to see what phase three of a crisis was. Like, like, what is everything better now. And it wasn’t. It was total chaos. The doctors were working in a hospital, when there were walls missing, it looked like earthquake, it just happened. And it’s two years later supply chains are just tell totally messed up. And so I just kept seeing that. And I kept seeing systems falling apart. For lack of a screw or washer, like little five cent plastic parts. It just didn’t make any sense to me. Because there’s things we just take for granted here.

Cliff 0:29
Hi there, this is the Solidworks born to design podcast, a podcast of inspiring stories about those who create build in bed in engineering new ideas into actual new products that by the way, they all use solid works. I’m your host Cliff Medling and this is episode number three, titled designing and crisis, I will be talking with Dara Dotz and solid works world. So as an industrial designer and co founder of field ready, which designs and manufacturers parts in crisis zones. I’m sure you’re going to be amazed with what dare entertain could do to help others who are in great need after natural disasters, or political catastrophes by developing very practical solutions on site. But let’s let Derek tell you her incredible story. Let’s jump right in.

Dara Dotz 1:14
My name is Dara Dotz. And I’m an industrial designer. And I’m co founder of the marvelous nonprofit called field ready. So you can look us up at, we do manufacturing and crisis zones. So instead of waiting for, like long supply chain challenges, and post disaster, it can take anywhere from three months to three years to get supplies and a lot of these situations. And so what we do is we actually bring the manufacturing units with us so that we figure out what the survivors need. And we co design with them every step of the way. And once we figure out how to make that solution, we then teach them how to make it. And so that’s how this all works, actually plays in sometimes we do 3d printing, or we sharing CAD files, we can explain what we’re doing across borders. And we do that anywhere from Nipal to Kenya to Myanmar to Syria, we work in Syria,

Post earthquake, Haiti. So all over the place. And so that’s that’s kind of what we do. So sometimes the 3d printing sometimes we invent new technologies to help people we work in really limited in environments, resource, very resources, training environments. So

Cliff 2:17
well, you mentioned the supply chain going a little more depth about that these people have gone through disaster situations. Yeah, you could order some parts. But.

Dara Dotz 2:27
So yeah, they don’t have amazon prime, it’s not a thing people have asked me many times, why don’t you just amazon prime things. But yeah, so the rest of the world is not quite as much as we are. And so it’s interesting, people say, why don’t you work in America. And we do work in America, actually, we just, well, we were just in the US Virgin Islands for the hurricane response. But a lot of America, anywhere, there’s a crisis, you know, the other half of the country, you can fly a plane full of supplies, and people can get what they need, really quickly. We have wonderful infrastructure and the capabilities here. And a lot of the countries we work in, there just isn’t that kind of access. And, for example, in Haiti, people after the earthquake, people kept responding, and donating things, and jackets and everything else. But what happened is, all the stuff that people didn’t actually need was actually filling up the the airport. And so the medicine and things people did need, couldn’t get out. So that sometimes can create a big challenge. And the other thing is, after the earthquake in Nepal, they were planes that wondering food and water and things in, but they couldn’t, because there was no gas, so the planes couldn’t actually land and take off again, so they didn’t. So there were periods of time where supplies just can’t come in, all the roads are washed out, it was really interesting being in Nepal, right? It sandwiched between India and China to the biggest manufacturing countries in the world. And we couldn’t get anything like literally cut off. So it’s, it’s really extreme. And those those goes cut off can last a long time. And if something does get through, it’s incredibly expensive and hard to get your hands on. So usually, it’s just the people who are able to get to it first, and so limited limited resources, and very hard to get things like medical machinery again, right? Because it’s like, you could bring in food and save someone, or you could try to bring machines and it’s all these things. So a lot of times, you wind up fixing and equated machinery

Cliff 4:01
right and fixing it. You bring your 3d printers you design a little part that could be needed that could be even possible with the supply chain to get in and

Dara Dotz 4:09
yeah, yes, we’ve done a lot of fixing. So when we use 3d printers, a lot of what we do is small items because we only have power for a few hours and then it cuts so you know, interpreter to cut out on you and the middle of like eight hour print, but I’m a lot of it’s like sometimes it’s medical disposables like umbilical cord clamps, or nebulizer adapters. In Nepal, it’s a lot of medical equipment. We fixed a lot of antiquated machinery, like baby incubators, and things like that. So we bring the things to fix things. And we do 3d printing, but it’s just one of the many tools that we use injection molding most recently in the hurricane response, which is in the video, I think that you guys I don’t know where it’s me posted. But we used we really try to figure out what’s available and how to work with locals. And so one of the big challenges was that, like FEMA said, Hey, sign up online, fellas, where you’re at where help you a lot of people didn’t even have that message. Because they didn’t have power internet, so many me know. So the big thing is like, how do we get power, right? How we get power to people? And one of the solar farms is completely destroyed. So there are all these solar panels just destroyed and rippled up and rolled up on the side of the road. And I wonder if we can fix them. So we actually want to fixing the solar panels, and then finding a little car batteries and creating solar charging stations that people could then plug their phone in, so they could contact the mainland and ask for help. And this is really a good example of the kind of stuff that I love. It’s about creating more resilient communities. We partnered with this amazing organization down there called my brother’s workshop. And they work with at risk youth. And so we’re actually able to train the trainer. So teaching at risk youth how to actually go in and bring light to the communities. And that’s super powerful. Because unfortunately, with climate and the way everything’s going and global warming, or whatever you want to call it, there’s more and more of these happening. And this means that the next time there’s a hurricane, these communities can actually make their own station before FEMA even lands and hopefully get to help sooner.

Cliff 5:53
Right. It’s train the trainers as you said, Yeah, so I guess, you know, you mentioned the US Virgin Islands, what you guys did down there, maybe go into a little bit about that. And the two hurricanes that came through and the power just little more background on that.

Dara Dotz 6:06
Yeah, yeah. So there was the, to classify of hurricanes that came through. And actually, we were positioned to go much sooner than we went, we went twice. And the first response, we were delayed, because all the flights kept getting canceled. And then we’re on different flight. Oh, my gosh, it was a nightmare. I was on standby for, like 10 days straight or something crazy. But we could finally get in. And luckily, FEMA was there. And there were groups getting in, but it was still really hard pressed. And there’s a lot of groups working and trying to figure out what they can work on past and creating shelters and using a lot of tarps. But we we were working with our partners on the ground and, and just really asking people what they need. And that’s kind of that’s kind of our thing, it’s our biggest model is we, we never really know we’re going to do till we get somewhere because you can assume things. But if you make an assumption, that’s when you missed, you missed the point, right, sometimes can go off in another direction. So we didn’t know this is the first time we did a power project, actually. So we didn’t know we’re going to do that. And until we listen to the survivors, and what they need, and that’s, that’s kind of what really drives our focus. Talk about being customer focused, right? So everywhere we go, we’re like, What do you need? What a concept asking people what they need, and then showing them how to do it themselves is really what

Cliff 7:15
Exactly I liked that Like when you guys put that in the movie, that was a key point, you guys go down, you talk to the people find out what they really need when they just needed to power their cell phones.


You know, this sort of thing. And, and as you mentioned, the solar panels were destroyed, but you found a lot of them were working. So.

Dara Dotz 7:30
Yeah, yeah, we repaired him and taught taught the kids how to make station safely and currents. And that’s actually we’re using that as capital in the videos was that a little kids were so excited to see light. They were coming and touching everything. And so we want to make sure it was saved so they wouldn’t shock themselves. And we

Cliff 7:43
Haha thats important .

Dara Dotz 7:44
Jigs, for re-roofing and things like that.

Cliff 7:46
Yeah, exactly. So you have Solidworks on the on the ground down there, and you create a part that you needed, and Mm hmm. And it in 3d printed it and you’re off and running? Right?

Dara Dotz 7:55
Yeah. Yeah. So we do a lot to do rapid prototyping when it’s the right circumstance. So we we always have Solidworks on our laptops. Most of our engineers, primarily Solidworks coming to England, and I would school for industrial design. And that was also the CAD software that we learned as well. So it’s just, it’s just native to, to most of our engineers, so yes,

Cliff 8:16
Thats great. Yeah. No, it was it. What did you guys first start off? It was Haiti, wasn’t it?

Dara Dotz 8:21
Yeah, yeah. So I went to Haiti first. And I realized that I was just really curious about what it was down there, and what was going on. And it was two years after the earthquake. So I didn’t actually respond to the earthquake in Haiti. Oh, just trying to see what phase three of a crisis was like, like, what is everything better now. And it wasn’t, it was total chaos, like the doctors were working in a hospital, when there were walls missing, it looked like earthquake, it just happened. And it’s two years later, and nobody cared anymore. Nobody was helping. It wasn’t the sexy disaster to donate to the day. And supply chains are just tell totally messed up. And for small clinics that like we’re just volunteer base, it’s can take up to two, sometimes three years to get the things they need. And so it was just ridiculous. And so kept seeing that. And I kept seeing systems falling apart, for lack of a screw or washer, like little five cent plastic parts. It just didn’t make any sense to me, because no one was trained how to maintain them, or how to even get the parts and yeah, and so that’s kind of what happened is it kind of started. Hmm, I wonder what this means. And just constant battle. But it was just so ridiculous. Because there’s things we just take search for granted here, you know, right?

Cliff 9:21
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you guys went back and they were still people using the machines. They were true.

Dara Dotz 9:25
Yeah, absolutely.

Cliff 9:26
So let’s expand on that.

Dara Dotz 9:27
Yeah, sure. So,


Cliff 9:29
clearly, I can’t tell the stories.

Dara Dotz 9:31
Yeah, well, my friend, when I was down there, my friend May was a nurse, and she was out of medical equipment. And she needed like a simple thing like an umbilical cord cloud, which is how you safely

there’s other ways I’m talking about and below chords, but it’s just, it’s a, it’s a stairway that it’s really no fuss, no muss. Easy Way to climb off an umbilical cord, so it prevents neonatal tetanus, which is basically infections for the baby. And she was out of all of us supplies, and even string. And so she was cutting her last pair of latex gloves to tie up the umbilical cord, which was an excellent hack, right? So she, the baby’s happy, she’s happy, they’re healthy, gay, everything was good until she had to deliver for more babies at night, which means that she had to do it barehanded to potentially HIV positive women, and of course, because she’s a real superhero, and real life she did, and I was just I heard the story and it just just finally, I just snapped. I got really angry and I said, I bet you we could 3d print those clams. And that’s kind of what got me started and how I got on this journey of disaster response and 3d printing and technology. It’s kind of funny, I actually was super hated technology until I went to Haiti. I thought it was stupid, because I couldn’t find a good use for 3d printer. I was like, they’re stupid. I don’t want one. I thought they’re cheating. Like even CNC machines. I was. Yeah, I was very different person and college. So I was like,

the one person who never touched our 3d printer at school. I didn’t even know Brandon was my now I do it in disaster zones in space. It’s kind of weird,

Cliff 10:58
but it’s so true. I mean, 3d printers have been around for a long time,

Dara Dotz 11:00
They’ve been around forever,

Cliff 11:01
they’re starting to see real practical uses for

Dara Dotz 11:03
Yeah, a lot of it. Yeah, we don’t need to print Yoda heads all the time. You know, we can start using for real things. So the first printers wrote down, we’re actually um, I got it. I was upset. And I got online. And I asked my, you know, I read a Facebook friend handled 3d printer and someone did, and they donate it. And I started learning how to 3d print a shipping container because I was hiding from finger and malaria and had friends would hammer genetic DNA they’re being met have backed out I was, it was intense, but it worked. It was cool. And then I was like, well, this isn’t any good vibe. Learn. what’s what’s the point in this let’s show us with local so I met with a group of guys down there and, and some local medical professionals and started teaching them. And then that was really exciting because Johnson was teaching other medical professionals. So now Haitians are teaching patients how to use the 3d printers. And the last time I went down there, the the printers are still working like the Oh, gee, make robots. They’re pretty bad ass. The wood ones. Yeah, they’re really good.

I still have them. They still run. It’s not like five years later in Haiti. And they’re still working. It’s interesting. I’m Abby, who is in the video, if you guys can see, which is pretty amazing, phenomenal engineer. And she actually went up making they’re having challenges rebuilding the houses in Nepal, like they were showing them the CAD drawings and like the stripe across where you put the extra beams to support your house. And they came back and say, Okay, come look at my house. And they’re like, we got it done. They go, and they look and they had painted a stripe on the actual house. They didn’t put the reinforcements. So clearly, something was lost in translation. So she actually used like, the laser cutter to cut precise parts, and then pull out the pieces and show them how to slide in to do reinforcement beams. So we do a lot with CAD and precision and things like that with maker tools to just really teach people different ways of doing things.

Cliff 12:37
Excellent. That’s great.

Dara Dotz 12:39
And sometimes, like the machinery come across. Actually, you guys these listeners know way better than we would about how to fix it. So right. It’s really cool to have those kind of resources of people all over the world to tap into.

Cliff 12:50
Absolutely. And they’re just did Mitch in the video. We did a video with filled ready on site in the virgin Island. Yeah, so that was definitely worth checking out. No plug for that

Dara Dotz 13:01
badass team. Best team. Check out the video. super beautiful, amazing. People came and shot it. I like the prettiest we do have ever seen of our work. Usually our work is like a cell phone. Yeah. So yeah, check it out. You can see what can see Eric and Abby in the phenomenal work that they do. And the rest of our team.

Cliff 13:17
Excellent. Excellent. Alright, Jess what I forget. I’m sure this

I’m just listening.

Nerd Out Pin

Oh, yes. Yes. So we’ve been asked it. So I only have my non but they have. We have what they call. What do I nerd out for? Oh, pins here.

Dara Dotz 13:31
Oh, I haven’t seen that

Cliff 13:32
yeah. No, I missed them at their apparently

Ill have to get one

registration. So what do you nerd out for you. Besides,

Dara Dotz 13:38
aside from disaster response?

Unknown 13:39

Dara Dotz 13:40
I nerd out on resiliency. I’m really big on resiliency. So my passion is really resiliency. And the extremes i think is a way to say it. So anything I work in extreme environments, from disaster zones to space. So I was really excited. I had the pleasure of working with maiden space for a few years, they did some kick ass Stephen space, we made things in space and name is great. People got confused. Cuz it was so good. I’m so glad to work on like the first 3d printer, zero gravity 3d printer. And it’s on the space station. And they’ve got another one up there now. But it’s really about how do we I really nerd out on how do we empower people in limited resource environments when they’re alone? And they feel cut off from the rest of humanity? How do we, how do we help them? How do we how do we really get them to be more resilient? And now that’s my thing. I totally geek out on space. And of course, the launch because pretty badass.

Cliff 14:30
Oh, that was done yesterday

Dara Dotz 14:32
Yeah, it was great. So nerd out on space and people in general, and how, how we all kind of came, create solutions and work together. That’s great.

Cliff 14:39
Now, if you don’t mind, I think, you know, you had a powerful message. You know, you see people in these disaster zones and in we live here in America. We’ve got it really good. Is there anything you’d like to say around that? You know, it’s Yes, yes.

Dara Dotz 14:53
Sorry. Totally. kind of go sideways on this one. Um, people always want to see things. I always want to help people like, Oh, poor people. Yeah, yeah, they need help. But they’re not to stop treating people, like victims start treating like badass kick ass survivors, because they’re way more about us than any of us. Like, what people go through. And what they survive is incredible. And I think that’s a really important thing is to stop treating people like victims if you do want to help and start supporting them. And that’s kind of my thing.

Unknown 15:20
No, I agree. I think my big

Dara Dotz 15:21
message because we are so privileged here. And sometimes we look from afar and oh, this for people. Yeah, there’s four people, but they’re also amazing. So how do we help them become more amazing? How can we be the sidekick? Like, let them be the superheroes? And how can we be the psychic instead of doing aid in a way of like, you know, like, let’s throw some money at it. Yeah, yeah, and some great, don’t get me wrong, I did send it to us. So we can hire more. And it’s really hard for people to understand what it’s like, in the field. Unless you’ve actually been there. And, and the chaos and and what people can go through. And the human spirit is really amazing. And we’re so fortunate here. And I think it’s just really amazing the kind of access that we have, and and how privileged we are. And so how we help people instead of how do we support people instead of coming in, like, we know better, just because we have more money, that that really doesn’t make any sense. That’s true. That’s something that we need all need to think about. So, so

Cliff 16:11
go and learn yourselves, right? Yeah, yeah. Excellent. So any, any advice you have for somebody who wants to really wants to get out there and help out.

Dara Dotz 16:18
Um, yeah, I say, do it, I would just start in locally, because there’s also a lot of people here who need help. And I think one of the most powerful things we can do as humans is mentor each other. And I think that get out and mentor and really reach out to people. It’s a lot of what we do, I just do a lot of like, after we’d been there a while and things slow down, we do a lot of one on one mentoring and helping people and it’s the same thing here. When I’m, when I’m home, I like to try to work with kids and young girls, especially, like, let’s get more girls into steam. And actually, I like to call it steamed science, technology, you know, art and design. So, um, it’s, I think it’s, I think that’s it, I would say, go do it. But don’t think like, take action. But in the case of disasters, I don’t say go do it. Because there are a lot of people who go into disasters, because they want to help. But what happens sometimes, you know, and I, you know, years ago, would have made the same mistake, probably, you go out there, you just drop everything you fly out there, you don’t want to do that. Because what happens if you go out there, and you fly out there than people to take care of you, you need to pack all your gear, you need to bring attention eating food, you need to bring medicine, because if you go out there yourself, and you don’t really know what you’re doing, you’re actually taking the food and shelter away from people who need it most. So I’d say start small, start working in your community. And if you know if you want to help out in crisis zones, like sync up with a really awesome partner, or reach out to us, because we’re always looking for new people to work with. But it really does take a certain kind of person because you do sometimes see some things and which is just, which is okay, it’s just, I just wouldn’t hate for people to go out into crisis and then get themselves injured. And also, you just got to remember, is it really should you be the one taking that small plane, right,

Cliff 17:56
right. You don’t want to go out with just good intention. Yeah,

Dara Dotz 17:59
yeah. Because, you know, it’s sometimes bad intentions happen. It’s like the road to hell is paved with good intentions or something. But it’s, it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, I don’t mean to sound super critical. But it’s, I mean, I’m constantly questioning myself and my work all the time, are we doing the right thing, we’re doing it right. And I think that’s healthy. And you can do that when we people in general, because when we assume we know what we’re doing, that’s when we get into trouble. And so I think supporting people is great. But before you jump into something kind of dangerous, or other people’s lives are at stake, like really take some time, take some stock,

Cliff 18:28
as you said, start small. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s good. So

Dara Dotz 18:32
yeah. Also, um, if anyone’s get involved, reach out field And just like it sounds, and we also have a community that we’re trying to build up if you guys want to join, that’d be awesome. It’s called humanitarian makers. So because of on LinkedIn, or humanitarian, and a lot of people want to get involved and participate, especially if you’re an engineer, listening or designer, please like look us up or student anything. We have a community. And so when we get inundated with requests in the field, it’s a way for us to reach out to the community when we have internet Of course, internet willing to actually ask for help, and no way for you guys to get involved in do great things, too. So

Cliff 19:06
Derek, thank you very much for coming. Thank you for allowing us to tell your story don’t you guys do with filled ready it’s excellent. So thank

Dara Dotz 19:12
you so much for taking the time and having me in here. And it’s my first time doing this. It was lots of fun. Excellent first time ever. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks for

Cliff 19:20
listening today. And remember that if you are manufacturing new products as there is please know that solid works makes it very easy to design for additive manufacturing with topology study and to check to see if your partner is 3d print ready to learn more about 3d printing with solid works go to that’s a m for additive manufacturing. Also, you can learn more about DERA and how field ready uses solid works in crisis situations as solid works. com slash build ready there you can check out a new video and infographic about dares journey in the Virgin Islands. After Hurricane Irma will be back again soon with more great born inside podcast stories at song dot com slash podcast or wherever podcasts are readily available. Until then, keep on designing.

Cliff Medling

Cliff Medling is a Senior Marketing Manager at SolidWorks and the host for the Born to Design Podcast.