Mike checking in with an update on all things BLUElab India.
Our two technical sub-teams (stoves and toilets) are deep into this semester’s work. Both sub-teams are preparing for the Spring Break feasibility assessment trip (2/27 – 3/8) and the May implementation trip (whole month), made possible by a $15000 grant award from the DOW Sustainability Fellows Program. More on those trips later; first, a quick summary of the progress of each sub-team.
On the stoves side, the team is progressing nicely. Since establishing phone contact with their family partner in Dolatpura (now calling 1-2 times weekly), the team has gathered a lot of important information, and drafted a list of design requirements with the family. Information gathered includes family schedule, materials, problems with current stoves, and more. The process of learning exactly what kinds of qualities the family is looking for is an important part of “co-design”. Since then, the sub-team has had two rounds of concept generation: brainstorming ideas for different designs. Concept generation will eventually lead to the selection of a few designs to focus on, including an “alpha design” (the primary design from which to iterate). Once the team picks an alpha design, they will begin to build and prototype in the Wilson Center (build area). In the meantime, the team is in the process of replicating the current stove design used by the family partner to get a sense of the current situation. This replication will also give the sub-team experience with the needed materials and tools.
On the toilets side (the sub-team I am on), the team is still in the information and design requirement phase. We have a family partner, but communication has been difficult due to conflicting schedules and limited modes of contact. Currently we are using Google Voice for outgoing calls, but have not found a viable option for incoming calls. In addition, the local government in Dolatpura recently committed to providing toilets to every household in the town. This is wonderful, however, it makes our project complicated; we now need to find out everything we can about this project, including: are the government toilets effective? Are people using them? When will the project be completed (if it will be completed)? To find this information, we are in continuous talks with Setco and other people in Dolatpura to gain multiple perspectives. Expect a big breakthrough in the next couple weeks!
In regards to the trips to Dolatpura in Spring Break and May, we still have more planning to do. However, we have outlines for what we want to accomplish. During Spring Break, the primary purpose is to use the face-to-face time to get concentrated feedback on the stoves (and potentially toilet) designs and iterate them accordingly. It may even be possible to build rough prototypes with our family partners while abroad. The work over Spring Break will help set us up for a successful implementation in May, and help us determine if implementation in May is even feasible. Other goals for Spring Break include strengthening relationships with family partners, acquiring more contacts within the local government (Nagar Palika), filling in information gaps, giving a presentation about our progress and goals, and put on a community workshop (such as cooking or science) to boost presence and relationships and share aspects of culture.
In other BLI news, we are preparing to welcome in a group of new members. New Member orientation is coming up in a week and we’re excited to see new faces. We took on a lot of people at the start of last semester, and we now have a solid foundation for growth. It’s no longer going to be doomsday when the first batch of seniors leaves this year (but sad nonetheless). As people get to know each other, team chemistry is definitely improving as well (I.e. people will actually eat the food at meetings now)!