Global Issues TEDx

A wind-powered toy to clear land mines? A fascinating TEDx talk

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Massoud Hassani is the creator is the Mine Kafon, a tumbleweed-like apparatus that uses wind gusts to roam through land mine-filled areas and detonate hidden mines as it goes. Born from the designs of the wind-powered toys that Hassani and his brother sent tumbling in the desert outside of Kabul as children, the Mine Kafon almost looks like a toy itself — a giant mass of poles and suction cups, made from bamboo and biodegradable plastics.

During his talk at TEDxUtrecht in The Netherlands, Hassani explained the process of designing the prototype, something he hopes will soon turn into an affordable alternative to the very expensive land mine clearing methods currently in use.

“I was born in Afghanistan … [In school], usually you get math, languages, and so on, but we got classes about land mines — so I know all of them. I know how to open them, because every day [they were] on our playground,” says Hassani. “We have to do something about it…but for now it’s really commercial companies [clearing them] — and they want to keep it like that, because they are earning money. They are [employing] not really trained people — just locals — and the locals, they want to earn money, [so] they are taking the risk to clear the land mines. The time you have to invest to find a land mine — it takes days.”

Hassani saw a way to clear land mines much more quickly and without the risk.

“I went back to my childhood and made a few toys,” he says. “I enlarged one of the ones that we were playing with on the ground in Afghanistan, and I thought, ‘Okay, if you make it bigger…it will become stronger as well, and heavier, and now if it runs over a land mine, it’s heavy enough to detonate it — because it has the same weight of a foot.’ …So I built it.”

Hassani is raising the funds via Kickstarter to build a better prototype of Mine Kafon. Thanks in part to coverage from The BBC, The Atlantic and CNN, the project has already surpassed its fundraising goal of £100,000 with seven days left to go in its campaign. Hassani hopes that, soon, the Mine Kafon will soon be available to clear mines in his home country and across the world.

This post originally ran on the TEDx blog. Head there for lots more on the hundreds of TEDx events happening across the globe »