A breeze would send them tumbling across the landscape, often into a nearby desert. Problem was, retrieving those toys wasn’t so easy. “We literally lived on a minefield,” Hassani says. Years later, attending design school in the Netherlands, he looked to his childhood toys for inspiration in his graduate project—and found what might turn out to be a lifesaver.
Called a Mine Kafon (“mine exploder” in Hassani’s native Dari), the construct wanders tumbleweed-like, detonating any land mines it rolls over. One prototype—200 bamboo rods with podlike plastic feet jutting from a heavy iron core—measures more than 7 feet across and weighs 200 pounds, heavy enough to trigger the mines yet light enough to be blown by the wind. Explosions rip off the bamboo spikes, but a single Mine Kafon can survive up to four detonations. Hassani and his brother are working with engineers to refine the design, adding GPS tracking to post mine-free routes online and (hopefully) steerability.