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Luis de Sousa CubeSats February 2017

Visit to Clyde Space


Initial Research & STEP cards


Cultureberg Woerkshop


Design, Satellites & Refugees


Exploring Cartographies


Initial Scenarions


Defining a Concept


Identifying Stakeholders


Social Context in Camps


Mapping the Service


Testing: Visual Narratives


Defining & Exploring a Moment






A Family of Products


Making a Brand


The Tech








The MEE Platfrom


Service Map


Scenarios of Use





INTRODUCTION The brief for our project asked for personal interactions that can result from the use of CubeSat’s satellites. With their small dimension and standardised interface, CubeSat’s allow for cheaper and faster missions, aiming at democratising the access to outer space. In such context, we were asked to investigate how these devices could play a role in a specific service or environment, and facilitate human interactions, resourcing to artefacts or props that build and communicate the connections generated.



At the start of the project, we were invited to Clyde Space’s headquarters, where we were introduced to the company’s ethos and different departments. During the visit, we were not only able to get an insight on satellites’ design, production, and testing, but also to ask questions and clarify doubts about the brief presented the day before. This visit helped me understanding the different possibilities and limitations of CubeSat’s technology, but also setting the grounds of the desk research for the STEP cards.

CubeSat company’s values

The office is an open space where all the different departments (ADGES, Engineers, Electronics, Sales, Testing) work together.

The engineers design the satellite according to the specificity of the mission.


Finally, once it is launched, it is controlled from a ground station that ensures a constant communication.

After it is manufactured, it endures a series of tests, to make sure it does survive in space.

Simultaneously, a replica of the satellite is built onto a flat surface, where every single component and software is tested in order to make sure the bulk of parts works well together. It then goes into the production lab, where the satellite is manufactured. As all the hardware is standardised, the necessary parts are purchased from external suppliers and then assembled in-house.



After the visit, we undertook general and wide initial research around the topic. During this early stage, I looked at ways in which CubeSats’ are being currently used, but also the trends for their future. During this research, I identified meaningful insights about these satellites’ vast usage in scientific research, but also gained awareness of how a shift has occurred in the last two years, as private companies and organisations are becoming more and more interested in owning their own satellites. CubeSats’ evidently enable a wider democratisation of outer space.

With the research findings, each of us individually developed ten STEP cards and affinitised them within our groups. When then got together as a year group and presented them to each other. The aim of this exercise was to make us identify an individual direction for the project. I found this activity quite useful, as not only I was able to understand my own direction, but I also took advantage of the exchange of ideas to gather more STEP cards and create a map of topics that could potentially relate to my subject.

The above STEP card is an example of what I chose as my main direction. As refugee camps become the cities of tomorrow, could satellites contribute to their development, other than disaster relief?


This thought made me question which areas do indeed constitute an emergent city. The STEP cards from my colleagues played a key role in that process, as they helped me identify and categorise those areas in distinct groups, and therefore possibly understand which moment I could focus on inside my initial design direction.

Mobility How is mobility perceived in camps, where the space is constantly changing despite the non-existence of streets or neighbourhoods?

Identity and culture A crucial part of a city is its cultural identity. How is that reflected in a camp, which is inherently constituted of people from different countries and cultural backgrounds?

Technology How are fundamental services secured, in a place where communication and technology, or even literacy to use such tools, are scarce?

Goods & Services How is provided the access to goods and services, in places that lack appropriate infrastructure and transport routes?

Education and Family Support How is education provided to the younger generations in camps, in order to ensure they are given fair and, if possible, similar opportunities as people living in traditional cities?


CULTUREBERG WORKSHOP Imagined After the initial analysis, we participated in a one-day workshop called “Cultureberg”. This workshop introduced us to “Casual Layered Analysis”, a technique developed by Sohail Inayatullah, which helps planning and determine future imagined scenarios. We were divided in groups according to our design themes, and then worked through each layer of the process. After we depicted our theme, we worked through the layers again but in a reverse, in an attempt to arrive at a hypothetical ideal scenario.

Litany Systematic Causes Wordview Myths & Metaphor Real

This workshop substantially contributed to the further definition of my main design direction, and consequential design concept, as it helped me understand the power and influence that communities can exert if they are provided with the right tools to do so. Through this activity I was able to depict a what-if scenario if those tools were to exist, and how that could reflect in the overall societal system.



Mobility Improved If communities can have access to such technology they can develop a “remote mobility� and act as though they were physically in the area. People can use their skills to help and empower minorities in conflict groups. Monitoring Devices can have Positive Outcomes other than Security Monitoring devices can be used for other purposes outside of the realm of security. These can be used to provide high-fidelity image and real-time data for creatives or involved communities, which can play a major role in the development of underprivileged areas.

Data to the People The democratisation of data broads the spectrum of people with access to it. Everyone can give their input.

Next News As creative industries get more involved in working with people needing design solutions, a snow ball effect can be generated, to the point when it effectively becomes a trend, where everyone wants to be involved.


DESIGN, SATELLITES & REFUGEES With the insights developed from the workshop, I started exploring the relationship between design, satellites and refugees. The main uses for satellites in the fields concerning refugees are associated with disaster relief, as aforementioned in the initial research. However, agencies are currently looking at innovative ways to use the technology, for example as a space planning tool or even to prevent internal conflicts. Simultaneously, designers are intrinsically more aware and reactive to the refugee crisis and try to come up with design solutions to contest it.

PlĂŠiades Satellite - copernicus.eu

Other agencies also resource to satellites for disaster relief. These provide very detailed maps of areas where there is no cartographic information.


Aidrop - Yaniv Kadosh

First aid distribution platform in disaster areas. Inspired by sycamore tree seeds and how they rotate when they fall from trees. These are launched by a flying plane, rotating until they land in the ground.

Malakal Camp - scidev.net

Aid Agencies resource to satellites to understand the growth of camps, but also to detect where internal conflicts may arise. They also use weather satellites to predict excessive rains or storms that could affect food supplies.

EXPLORING CARTOGRAPHIES With the idea of camps as emerging cities, along with the insights generated from the workshop and my recent research, I started imagining a scenario where an observation satellite could map the many distinct areas inside refugee camps and contribute to their effective transformation into cities. Such approach could not only have a big impact in mobility inside the camps, but also increase a sense of belonging from the part of the refugees themselves.

“It used to be that if you weren’t on a map, you didn’t exist. Mapping is an important part of the process of being recognised.” Shaheed Saleed

Harvard Mapping Refugee Camps - Harvard.edu

Calais Map – Shaheed Saleed

As I investigated mapping in refugee camps, I quickly became aware that this was not a new idea, and that there are quite a few recent projects around the same subject. Nevertheless, these projects are mainly limited to mapping specific areas, or tracing refugee routes. While they may help in giving refugees some sort of recognition, they did not empower them directly in their daily lives inside the camps. UNHCR Tracing Migrant Routes - UNHCR.org



With the idea of mapping as a tool for empowerment inside the camps, I started depicting initial scenarios as means to arrive at a more specific moment, that could then become the concept for my design outcome.

What happens to refugees when they arrive to camps? How do they move around? Can satellites help?


Refugees have the tools that allow them to make their own maps, thus claiming their own version of the camp.

Using satellites to map the camp and provide the information to the refugee communities so they can not only understand their camp but also create their own version of it.



The notion of refugees claiming their version of the camp made me consider that in order to create a city, its citizens need to have an active voice about its growth and development. This train of thought led me to the main concept: refugees, working together with Aid Agencies, could resource to satellites to communicate their needs to the general public, and then generate crowdfunding for small projects to improve the camps. The donors could follow the progress of the funded projects and understand where and how their money was being spent.


Refugees, working together with Aid Agencies, could resource to satellites to communicate their needs to the general public, and then generate crowdfunding for small projects to improve the camps.


IDENTIFYING STAKEHOLDERS In order to understand more about the stakeholders in the concept, I looked at the relation between NGOs and refugees. Large institutions, such as the UNHCR, have been advocating for self-governance in camps, however donor states put restrictions on such type of initiatives, thus limiting the agencies’ actions. On the other hand, my approach could potentially bring more independent funding, thus giving the agencies the freedom to proceed with their own social agenda.

My proposed approach could potentially bring more independent funding, thus giving the agencies the freedom to proceed with their own self-governance agenda.

“The long-established notion that refugees should be active participants in the management of their camps and assistance programmes is quietly being set aside. Increasingly, donor states assess humanitarian organisations in their capacity to deliver emergency relief, rather than empower marginalised populations and to bring a degree of dignity to their lives.” The state of the world’s refugees: A Humanitarian Agenda (UNHCR 1998)

UNHCR BUDGET IN 2014 - $ 22,002.072

Fundraising 37,6%

Programme 59,4%

Administrative 3% If independent donations increase dramatically, not only the budget grows, but the fundraising campaigns diminish. Can the service save money to organisations?


Another important stakeholder are the refugees themselves. The social context inside camps is very complex, as the population not only has to deal with the issues of living a life of conflict and deprivation, but simultaneously has to cope with a multicultural environment, where people who share totally different behaviour, beliefs, language, and literacy. Such situation made me question how the concept can bring people together, thus forming a stronger and united community.



During a review, one of the critiques was that I had to identify a moment within the service to further focus from my project. I was also told that my project was perhaps too organisational and missing a more human side. This second comment, in particular, made me look at stories of people living in camps to understand a little better their routines and motivations. This investigation made me acknowledge how camps can be perceived as places of opportunity, rather than just temporary shelter, which only reinforced the original insight of camps as emergent cities.

Bashir Bilal


Mama Dewit

Bashir Bilal used to live in Somalia, and five years ago came to Dadaab. He says that opportunities in the camp are better than in Somalia. Children get access to primary and secondary school for free, and can possibly obtain a scholarship for college. In Somalia, school fees are very high and children are forced to give up on their studies and work with their parents.

Mama is a woman living in Kakuma since 2012. She is a breast cancer survivor and was enduring several health issues due to the lack of access to appropriate medication. The Refugee Magazine (a running newsletter in Kakuma) made a profile on her, and as the camp community and local humanitarian aid gained knowledge of her situation, she obtained help immediately. According to Mama, this was something that she would never have expected and completely changed her quality of life.

Access to information mobilised the camp community to help a member in need.


Children have access to better education in camps, then in their countries. 18

Camp as a Marketplace CDACnetwork.org

Mohammed Osman

According to a 2010 study, Dadaab has a thriving economy of 22 million Euros/ year. Such economy not only benefits the camp as a whole, but also the non-refugee surrounding community. Each camp has its own market, hotels, and restaurants.

Mohammed is a medical officer who has provided medical consultations for free, affordable drugs and in-patient treatment at his pharmacy in Dadaab. He left Somalia in 1992 and his family and business thrived in the camp.

The camp not only provided security, but also a business opportunity.


The camp is a place for business and life opportunities that are not available in the countries of origin. 19

MAPPING THE SERVICE With the objective of identifying the moment of focus in the service, I mapped the different stages, in to understand the key touchpoints, but also where each stakeholder could intervene.

Stage 1

Stage 2






What tools should be used to map it?

Stage 1-2

Same tools as Stage 1



Stage 3

Maps viewed on web platform

With the stages more clearly defined, I built a narrative for each one, and from that I then created props to develop a visual scenario. This experimentation allowed me to effectively identify my key moment for the project. Stage 1

A tool and methodology that allows refugees to map their camp, resourcing to GPS technologies. This process not only “puts them on the map�, but also makes them gain site-specific knowledge of their surrounding territory, and understand some of the patterns of growth.

Stage 1-2

The data that the satellite gathers is accessible to the people in the camp.

Stage 2

The same tool and method allows refugees to map new areas, that are then uploaded to the satellite. On its turn, the satellite sends the data to a crowdfunding platform. Refugees become decision makers on their own territorial environment.

Stage 3

The new areas that were previously mapped need to be transformed. In order to achieve that, they are crowdfunded by the general public through the online platform. How is that experience reflected on the average user? What keeps them motivated to help? Are there any rewards?



Surveyor’s Wheel

Community members in the camp, map the ground with the surveyor’s wheel. As they move and roll the wheel, perimeters in the terrain are measured and the measuring data is uploaded to the satellite.

The data is fed to the satellite, which acknowledges the coordinates of the traced area.

The satellite accepts the measured area on a virtual map.


4 Pins

Pins are placed as corners to determine a certain given area.

The data is uploaded onto the satellite, which traces the virtual lines between the pins

The satellite accepts the measured area on a virtual map

Main points identified from the experiment: - How is the data uploaded to the satellite? - How do people decide which areas to map? - How can these tools work in real-life? 23


The satellite traces the previously marked area.

As the number of traced areas increases, a map begins to be formed.

Paper maps that are constantly updated? Maybe they could be included in a camp newsletter?

A basic GPS/compass that allows its user to predetermine five different locations? An arrow that guides them?

Main points identified from the experiment: - How is the data downloaded? - How are different spaces identified? - How can this data empower in practical terms? 24


User can check the website and see the progress of the camp in realtime. The option in green shows what the user contributed to.

The user decides to click on an empty area (in this case an area for a tent).

The user purchases the tent and soon enough, he will be able to see it on the map.

Maybe the user gets a paper cut tent to print as a reward for the contribution?

Main points identified from the experiment: - How can the user track the changes? - Is there a takeaway? - How are they motivated to continue? 25


The visual scenarios not only helped me understand that Stage 1 & 2 would be my main area of focus, but also that the idea of placing pins to delineate the different areas of the camp would be more effective than the previous version with a surveyor’s wheel, as discussed during a tutorial. In order to understand the viability of the product, I recreated different potential mapping moments that could demonstrate its flexibility in use.

Each space (ex: tent) has its own 4 pins that mark the space.

On the other hand, the free spaces around the pins become roads and paths, thus helping people moving around.

The satellite captures the information, ensuring the maps are always updated.


The pins allow to alter layouts of the camp, thus giving people the choice to make their own spaces according to their preference.

A fifth, central pin could help people guiding themselves through the camp?

The information that is sent to the satellite needs to be accurate, but also needs to be identified.


SEMANTICS As I was reaching the prototyping phase, I took inspiration from many products that impersonate a playful and friendly character. The reason behind such decision was that the final product would ultimately be technological, and would be used by people from various educational backgrounds, or even illiterate. The product would have to be simple, intuitive and not pose a threat for someone be about to use it for the first time.

Goldsmith’s Interaction Design

Absolut Choir

Goldsmith’s Interaction Design

Mine Kaffon - Massoud Hassani 28

Goldsmith’s Interaction Design

Braun - Dieter Rams Braun - Dieter Rams

Braun - Dieter Rams Braun - Dieter Rams

Solar Street Lamp - Mathieu Lehanneur

Little Sun - Olafur Eliasson

Little Sun - Olafur Eliasson 29

PROTOTYPING My initial prototypes were made out of paper and had no deliberate design. At that stage, I was mainly trying to understand how the product could work in terms of scalability, but more importantly in terms of assigned features. This process allowed me to understand what I needed to incorporate in order to respond to the previous visual scenarios.

Easily identified? Guide – Light? Distinguish places? – Maybe light changes colour? How does it power? How does it upload information? What kind of information does it upload? Needs to be buried?


Prototype 1 Small stand with solar panel and light on top, which allows people to see it from a distance. Issues: How does it show what type of mapping it is doing? How is it attached to the ground?


Prototype 2 Small device that is buried on the ground, similarly to garden lights. Issues: Too small to be easily detected. Due to its size, and the amount of dust in the ground, the device would get easily dirty, thus affecting its solar panel for battery charging and possibly its whole functionality.

Prototype 3 Small device that can be hung to a stick or a similar tool. Presence light give the device a double function as a street lamp.


Prototype 4 A device with a small satellite dish. Issues: Where would it be placed? How would it be attached to a tent?

Prototype 5 Main device that communicates with the satellite and smaller devices that mark the territory.



The test prototypes made me realise that it would be difficult to make a one single product able to encompass all the necessarily different stages of the services. As I developed distinct versions, and placed them next to each other, I noticed how they actually seemed to work together, rather than against each other. This led me to the decision of creating a family of products that would specifically respond to each stage I was focusing on.

Stage 1 This product consists of a main device that is placed in the front side of the tent, and two small others placed on its back side. The idea behind three connectors rather than four is that it helps the satellite understand where the front side of the tent is. These devices have a unique serial number and come together in a kit provided to each family in the camp. This allows them to have their own virtual address, thus empowering them through mapping.


Stage 2 This product has a main hub and six pins. The pins are distributed to mark an area, and the hub is used to classify data and upload it to the satellite. Once it is completed, the pins and hub can be kept away, as the information was uploaded.

Stage 3 This product is a simple navigation tool, that allows the users to see their location on a map, thus helping moving around, or perceiving the space.



MEE (Mapping Environments for Empowerment) is a service that resources to satellite mapping with the objective of empowering refugees. It allows them to collaborate with Agencies and receive crowdfunding for their projects, thus making them decision makers in their camps.





With the family of products created, it became evident that the overall concept was not just about a set tools to obtain crowdfunding to build projects anymore. It was about how mapping could empower refugees, and the tools and crowdfunding were a fundamental part of it. In that sense, the name MEE (Mapping Environments for Empowerment) was born.

The value behind the idea can be seen from three different perspectives: Refugees: Empowered in two ways: they get more and better resources and facilities but also gain an active position as decision makers in their camp. Agencies: With more independent funding, they can push their agenda of refugee self-governance in camps. General Public: The crowdfunding donors can track the progress of the works they contributed to in real-time. The service provides a transparent and effective way of helping with just a few clicks.





MapMEE: - GPS transmitter - Constantly maps the location of a tent - Presence light illuminates the surrounding area outside - Individual Serial Number, providing a virtual address

FundMEE: - GPS transmitter - Main hub and 6 secondary pins - Pins are used to outline an area - The hub uploads the data to the satellite - Users classify the type of area they wish to build, so the satellite knows what kind of data it is receiving


The technique used to make the products work is RTK (Real Time Kinematic) which resources to GPS technology embedded in the products and satellite.

MEE CubeSat - GPS Receiver - High Resolution Camera

MEE Platform - Downloads live information from CubeSat

guideMEE - GPS transmitter - Downloads live information from CubeSat



In this stage, camp inhabitants are given a kit: mapMEE. This product constantly marks the location of a single tent. The main hub has a presence light that illuminates the surrounding area outside. Each kit has a personal serial number that provides the owners with a unique location and virtual address.



In order to build new areas, refugees and aid agencies resource to fundMEE. It has a main hub and 6 secondary pins. The pins are used to outline an area; the hub uploads the data to the satellite. It allows the users to classify the type of area they wish to build, so the satellite knows what kind of data it is receiving.



guideMEE is a simpler version of a portable GPS that has two functions in the camp: guiding people around, especially newcomers; helping people understand the space when they are trying to build a new area with FundMe. This device only displays the users’ location, rather than allowing them to enter directions.



Users can access the MEE platform and find more about projects they can “Backup”. They can also pay for goods and equipment that are needed in the camp. In due course, they can see the progress of the works through real-time satellite imagery.








SCENARIOS OF USE STAGE 1 - Mapping the Existing Ground

Hani Arrives to the camp with her daughter.

They are given a MapMeE Kit and a Tent to inhabit.

Once they move, they place the Kit on the tent: the main in the front middle, and the two smaller on each side of the back.

The tent is now mapped and identified from the satellite.

Its presence light illuminates the street and helps people navigating around the tents in the dark.

Each kit is personal and has a serial number. In case she moves, Hani can provide her family and friends with the number and with an internet access they can see where she is living, but most importantly, know that she is safe.


STAGE 2 - Mapping New Areas to Build

The community on the north of the camp is very far from the hospital. They have to walk for hours in order to reach it.

Both parties use the product to delineate the areas to build.

The community speaks with the Agency and explain that they need a hospital.

They classify the type of project in the hub (hospital and water), and upload the data to the satellite.

The Agency agrees and suggests to also a build a water tank next to it, so patients can have access to fresh water.

The satellite reads and classifies the data that is then transferred to the crowdfunding platform.


STAGE 1-2 - Understanding the Camp

GuideMEE helps people understand the space when planning for new areas

GuideMEE helps people moving in the camp


STAGE 3 - Get Crowdfunding to Build New Areas

Meg is sensible to the poverty around the world. She donates money through sms or street fundraising. She doesn’t know how she can help more actively and feels a bit hopeless.

She finds out about the crowdfunding website and decides to register.

She looks at the ongoing projects and requests for funding, and decides to purchase a tent and a kit.

After the purchase she receives a thank you note and the serial number for the kit she purchased.

A few days later, she checks the platform and decides to pledge for a hospital and water tank building project.

As time goes by, she can see the progress of the works through the satellite imagery, but is also informed that the kit she purchased was assigned to someone. She feels happy as her actions provided shelter to a family. 49

CONCLUSION CubeSat’s was an enjoyable project, that made me explore potential links between heavily technological products, such as satellites, and technology-scarce environments, such as refugee camps. The Cultureberg workshop proved to be quite useful as it not only introduced me to a future scenario building tool—one that I can apply in other future projects—but also helped me understanding the influence that communities can bear with their local authorities, government, or even in my project’s case, minorities across the world. In terms of future refinements, there are three main issues that require further work: 1) how the communities in camps decide to build new areas; 2) how the service experience is represented on the donor’s side; 3) although the service is sustained by donations, it would require a substantial initial investment, that could either be done by the Agencies themselves, or private companies—yet the involvement of the latter could potentially compromise the power of agencies and refugees already participating in the service. In terms of the viability of the technology, it was mentioned during the final presentation that the product MapMEE could communicate to a central hub(s) in the camp rather than independently to the satellite.


By agreeing with this observation, I believe this is something that will require my attention in the preparation of the project for the degree show. Despite these aforementioned issues, I believe that the potential of this project lies both with the empowerment of refugees and the potentially active involvement of a much wider general public. While the former can make more informed decisions about their local territorial environments, the latter can effectively make a difference and help someone in need with just a few clicks. The level of confidence in the service is provided with a transparent, real-time crowdfunding platform. In this case, technology may enable more meaningful levels of engagement between different people on opposite sides of the world, by forging synergies of aid and care without the necessary need to meet personally.




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