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Tumbleweed minesweeper helps clear Afghanistan from land mines

Afghan designer Massoud Hassani created a tumbleweed-like minesweeper to clear the country from the land mines
Tumbleweed minesweeper helps clear Afghanistan from land mines

Growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, Massoud Hassani created his own toys—lightweight rolling objects made from scraps of material he found around the neighborhood. 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, Wired reports.

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.


That new version should be finished later this year, but it still has a long way to go before meeting international mine-clearing standards. In the meantime, the Mine Kafon will just have to settle for being the belle of the art world: To Hassani’s surprise, museums around the world are asking for one.

New York City’s MoMA is exhibiting it in March, alongside a short documentary. It’s blowing up—no mines necessary.