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.