Looking Back on Our Semester

Hi everyone, many apologies for the long hiatus of blog posts, but our first semester back has been full of exciting decisions and developments. Not only have we focused our project to two specific issues and one village (two families), but our team has grown in size as well! As winter break comes to a close, this coming semester we will be solidifying designs and prototyping in preparation for travel in both the spring, and summer.

After coming back from a needs assessment trip last summer and evaluating the tons of valuable data, the team decided on two issues to focus on: the unhealthy amounts of smoke women inhale while cooking over burning stoves, and the lack of inexpensive septic tanks/toilet systems.

The most common stoves the travel team saw in India burn fuel (commonly wood) and have poor or no ventilation systems. Women usually spend a majority of their day cooking, inherently breathing in a significant amount of smoke leading to difficulty breathing, and long-term health issues. This semester the team did research on all kinds of low budget clean stove designs including seeking some advice from Professor Joe Trumpey who has an ongoing stove project in Tanzania. As we continue to design, we have been in contact with a family in Gujarat who is willing to work with us. Some things to continue to consider are cost, cooking technique (how will flavor change depending on stove type?), space in the home, and sustainability. Things are looking great and we hope to start building in the Wilson Center soon!

On the flip side, the septic sub team has done a similar literature review, looking at several different types of toilet campaigns and systems. India has an extreme lack of local sanitary toilets, leading to sickness, poor hygiene, and a perpetuating problem. Though India is currently trying to alleviate the issue through building state funded outhouses for numerous families, many of these outhouses remain unused because families must build septic tanks themselves. Unfortunately, these tanks are expensive and unaffordable. The goal this semester was to evaluate methods for low cost tank designs, how and whether or not to redesign the toilet itself, and how to sustainably implement it at an affordable price. Like the stoves sub-team, septic has been making regular calls to the family they are working with, and continue to hone designs for prototyping.

Other than the usual business of brainstorming, meeting, and working on our project, we’ve started a more social side to BLUElab India: grabbing meals, having office hours, and just hanging out to get to know each other. Members have also been attending seminars and workshops to learn better ways to develop projects and plan overseas trips; we’ve been learning some useful information!

The new semester is looking exciting with all kinds of builds, experiments, and trip planning happening. Stay tuned for pictures as we start the prototyping process!

– Kaylla

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