Day 12: Many Measurements

Hi everyone, Kaylla here. Today consisted of some major office work, like completing several pages that will soon be added to the website (a Dolatpura page, one about our partners, and a designs page). We still made our way to Dolatpura today to check out our stove since we covered it in the dung mixture yesterday. Unfortunately, a deep crack had formed on the bridge section of our design; my guess is from the difference between materials. When the mud mixture dries it shrinks, but our metal interior pieces do not, causing stress in the earthen exterior. Despite this, the stove still seems extremely stable and sturdy, and we will see if the crack will withstand heavy cookware and dishes such as pots of rice. In addition, no one seemed very concerned about this crack and stated that they would just add another layer of the red dirt/dung mixture.

After studying the crack and discussing its origins, we took measurements of the stove so we can closely replicate it (with improvements) on our next prototype. The measurements will also help us calculate materials cost which is an important factor for the villagers, as well as give us information to CAD models of our designs at home. We finished up our stove examinations and headed back to the factory.

Back at Setco, Rajesh and Viral sat down with us to show us the extensive PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) research they have been doing for the last three months in the hamlets of Katol, another village near the Setco factory. They unfolded giant sheets of thick paper with drawings and text symbolizing statistics on socioeconomic percentages, household technology, castes, the type of houses they lived in, their expenses, return, and net gain from agricultural income, and information on activities/income in the three different seasons of India (Summer, Winter, Monsoon). We discovered that their PRA was very similar to the needs assessment trip BLIP did last year in May, but with more systematic methods and time (three months instead of one). The most interesting thing about the PRA was that a lot of the information and all the solutions to problems is done by the villagers themselves, only facilitated by the Setco Foundation. Setco provides resources and technology, but the attitude for improvement and involvement comes directly from the people. Even though the PRA was done on Katol, not Dolatpura (the village where we codesign), the report had some really eye-opening information. This weekend we are planning to visit

This weekend we are planning to visit Zoha’s grandparents in Sidhpur, and next week Monday we will be testing out our stove, seeing how successful it is, and cooking with the villagers to see how our added touches work. This afternoon, we sat down and planned out our whole next week. Overall progress has been good, though I personally get impatient waiting for the stove to dry (I thought watching grass grow was slow). Stay tuned for Monday!

Day 11: Lapedo and Logistics

Hi everyone, Shilpen here giving an update to our awesome followers. Just a brief tangent about the title, “Lapedo” is the Gujarati word for “apply on to something or someone”. Today, the word was used to describe the application of cow-dung and red clay mixture to coat the outside of the chulo (stove).


Today, we went to Dolatpura and coated our first prototype with cow dung. In addition, we showed them our blog using Sai’s laptop/tablet. They were all very excited to see their picture on the blog. We also had an interesting conversation about cricket and Chris Gayle. The kids were very interested to see what American sports were like so I showed them highlight clips and explained the basics of American football. They were really intrigued by the concept of football as it was very different from cricket and other Indian sports.


After our brief diversion we were back to work discussing our first iteration with Manojbhai. He expressed concern about the size and shape of our chimney or flue that we incorporated. He believed that a smaller and more cone shaped flue would expel the smoke faster from flue. We are excited about this new development and are planning to test the impact of shape and size after we test our first prototype. We are anxious to have people test our prototype alongside us and give us valuable feedback about the stove.


We were also able to attend a summer camp for adolescent women at the Kalol Anganwadi. It was interesting to see another side of the SETCO Foundation in action. The camp was designed to not only empower women through education but to show them the importance of a balanced diet, sanitation, education, etc. The girls were excited to learn and attend the 5-day workshop which included a hiking-resort trip nearby.

After our field visits we revisited and adjusted our plan for the rest of the trip based on our current progress. Tentatively we hope to complete and test two more prototypes. Overall, we had a very productive day for the stoves project in both the field and the office.

PS. (from Kaylla) Zoha tried to make friends with a cow at the village, but she was not amused with Zoha’s antics.


DAY 10: Cow Dung and Co-Design


Hi All: Erica here updating yall after another productive day in Dolatpura. Actually, productive may be an understatement. But I’ll get to that. It all started last night after a rousing game of Settlers of Catan, where I monopolized the wheat, settled on a wheat port, and proceeded to erect cities like it was my job. Feeling the pure adrenalin of victory, I led the team in a discussion about toilets. We were trying to address whether our timeline is reasonable, considering the new information that we got about the Setco Foundation’s toilet project in Katol. Due to some encouragement from Urja, we decided that our academic, experimental approach to composting toilets is beneficial to our village partners, the Foundation, and ourselves. After coming to a consensus about our toilets direction, we made an agenda for a Google Hangout with the team back home that happened early this morning.


Shout out to all of our team members who stayed up late to chat with us about toilets and stoves. We were so excited to see familiar faces (and smiles! and hear lots of English!), update everyone, and get feedback. During our call, we also figured out a way that our friends in India could contact us on our American phones. This is a problem that we have been conscious of; it isn’t fair that we can call for pennies from Google Voice, while they would have to make an international call to reach us. What we determined was that they could call us, let it ring three times, and then hang up; as long as they did not play a voicemail message, they would not be charged for the call. Then, we could call them back from a Google Voice and they would know to expect a call. This is a working model, and better than what we had before (only one way communication), so let us know if you have any other ideas!


After our Google Hangout, we headed to Dolatpura for the MOST EXCITING THING WE HAVE EXPERIENCED: a real live build of our stove prototype! But first, we had to finish the stove that we built yesterday; it needed a coating of cow dug mixed with red dirt to keep it from cracking. All of the kids watching giggled when Kaylla and Sai kneeled down to help with this task; no one in the village thought that we would want to get our hands dirty with cow dung. Well, guess again, Dolatpura!

While Kaylla and Sai were playing with poop, Shilpen mixed up some more mud with straw to build the body of today’s stove prototype. Today, Munjulaben was helping us build the stove because Sumitraben had guests.


Munjulaben’s stove building style was slightly different that Sumitraben’s and we didn’t realize until halfway through the build that she had no idea what we were doing. Zoha noticed the confused look on her face and pulled out the paper with the stove design that we have been sharing with all of our partners. After she saw that, the direction was clear and she began instructing and correcting Kaylla and Shilpen as they shaped the mud mixture into a stove.


Sai and I built the metal pieces that are incorporated into the stove: the chimney, the front bridge, and the chimney brace. Manojbhai taught us how to work with the metal so that it did not have sharp edges. As we were constructing the stove and adding the chimney, everyone who was watching was constantly giving input. At one point, we had to take out my notebook so that people watching could draw their ideas so we could understand. Prakash taught us a way to twist the wire out of the way and the horde of kids insisted on helping us roll up the metal for the chimney. This was the most exciting part of the whole day.


I have been talking about co-design and cultural exchange since I started the BLUElab India Project (way back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth), but this is the first time I have seen it really in action. Previously, we have taken into account cultural drivers and talked to people about our designs (which are both very important actions), but we never built something together. As we build, everyone is able to experience what we have been discussing so the ideas about process, design, and structure start flying.


Our prototype will harden over the night and we will coat it will dung tomorrow. After that, it will dry more and then people in the village will begin testing it. Then, we will iterate our design based on input and testing. We already have some ideas that we discussed today about how the “burner” should be shaped in relation to the chimney.


What an exciting, rewarding day. I am so proud of all the work that has been put in by the team over the last couple years and I am excited to hear the feedback on this first prototype. We’re hangin in there!


PS: I’m sorry that the picture of my business dress is still in the corner of the blog. We are having trouble updating our Instagram, which is where that photo came from.

PPS: All gastrointestinal system have been behaving correctly! This might be even more exciting that the stove build today…

Day 9: Surprise! A Stove!

Hey everyone! This is Sai! Before I get into our wonderful adventurous day, I want to talk about the trip Shilpen and I took to Kalol for stove materials. We listed all the materials that we needed for our stove build that we were planning to do on Wednesday. Then Viral took this list and asked a civil engineer in the factory where we could acquire them. The inquiry had found that Kalol should have all of the materials so Shilpen, Viral, and I decided to trek upon this journey. We ended up buying most of the materials in one store and visiting a few others to inquire about how much a pipe would cost compared to the sheet metal for the chimney.

Today was an important day for the stove project. The team and I traveled to Dolutpura this morning to observe Sumitra Ben build her stove. We went to the back of Sumitra Ben’s house where she had the mati piled up.

IMG_6492editShe had it dug from the field yesterday and mixed it with a little bit of water. She said that this process would prepare the mati for the build the next day. The mati was almost like play-doh. It would crumble more than play-doh but the water that is added made it feel like the mixture we had used for our first prototype.


Erica, Zoha, and I joined Sumitra Ben in creating the final mixture. She took a little bit of water and kneaded a cluster of dirt. The process was similar to the way the dough is prepared for making a roti. After making about seven clusters we moved to the area where Sumitra Ben said we would build the stove. She started out by taking the clusters and forming the U-shape. The base of the stove was initially built wider and thicker than we had estimated when we were trying to replicate their stove.


Then as she continued to build the stove up, she would constantly carve out the mixture from the bottom and pack it on the sides and top. She also carved out the mixture from inside the stove so it had more space for the wood. After the base structure was finished, she rolled three small clusters of the mixture and packed one each of the three sides of the stove. Each of these clusters were packed sort of inward into the stove so that they can support pots and pans. She also added a little strip of mixture on the two ends of the stove. We asked what it was for and she said that it was just part of her design. Finally, she took some water and smoothed out the whole stove.


The finished structure would then be covered with a mixture of cow dung and red dirt. Sumitra Ben said that we would have to wait a full day before covering it with that mixture. This covering would harden the outside of the stove as well as improve the stability of the stove. While we were building the stove, a few kids whipped out Erica’s multipurpose notebook and added more animals to her collection. After building the stove, Erica went to learn how to say the animals’ names and many of the kids had a lot of fun with her pronunciation.


Before we left, we were going to meet with Manojbhai to update him about the stove project but he hadn’t returned from Kalol so we will meet him tomorrow. We are excited to finish Sumitra Ben’s stove and build our stove with her tomorrow!


Diving Deep in Dolatpura

Namaste!!! This is my first post this year! It is great to be back in the scorching heat (seriously). My feet, arms, and neck are tanning under the sun. I have an ombre tan, if that makes any sense. In fact, I have a scrunchie tan (it is kind of cool…maybe not that cool). Today, the team and I traveled to Dolatpura and conducted our first stove and toilet related conversations.


First, we met with Sumitra Ben and her family. We decided to see her stove and sit nearby in her backyard. We sat together and discussed the designs. In addition, we asked her for any suggestions to the specific model. Sumitra Ben said that as we build and test our prototype, she will be able to give us more feedback about our technology. We were interested in the procedure of making the earthen mixture for the stoves.


Therefore, Sumitra Ben’s brother-in-law walked with Shilpen and Sai to show them that the mud comes from their farm. They dig about a foot into the ground and scope out the mud. Then, they mix it with husks (or other wastes from crops) and water. Once the mixture is kneaded like dough, they let it sit outside for 24 hours. The following day Sumitra Ben starts constructing the stove. Last week, we asked Sumitra Ben if we can work with her to build her new stove. She agreed to work with us. Tomorrow, we will be building the stove similar to every resident in Dolatpura. Once we understand the techniques Sumitra Ben used to build her stove, we will collaborate with her to build her first prototype and test it. We are super pumped about building our first stove tomorrow!!


Furthermore, we met with Prakash and Chatrasinh Bhai. We showed and discussed the toilet designs to the brothers. They both were satisfied with the design and did not have specific suggestions. Prakash had great questions about each design. In the end, both Prakash and Chitrasinh Bhai selected the design with the underground soakpit with an underground urine diverter. Lastly, we said our goodbyes to the community and headed back to the factory to continue planning our week. The start of the week has been great! We have accomplished a lot from our conversations today. I am excited to see how the next week plans out. Until next time, Zoha Momin

Kicking Back in Kurtis: Are You Feeling a Lagaan?

Hi everyone, Kaylla here. This weekend we were invited to two weddings in Dolatpura of family members from our village partners. The experience was an amazing opportunity to really solidify our relationship with the people, and enjoy an awesome cultural event. After Erica and I donned colorful kurtis (Zoha was away getting dental surgery in Sidhpur so she could not attend, but she let me borrow her clothes) and the guys their slacks, we piled into the van as usual and made our way to Setco, then the wedding.


My first instinct when discussing cultural events is to compare what I am familiar with (American things) with what I experience in India, but I am coming to feel that doing so limits my perspective in taking in newer, incomparable things that are so rich and beautiful or unique. Thus as we arrived in Dolatpura, the burst of colors we were greeted with was unlike any wedding I had been to before. The women were dressed in gorgeous saris of every hue, and yellow and purple fabrics were draped from a frame so the sunlight would fall through, creating a celebratory atmosphere. Everyone was eating freshly cooked Indian food and luring music filled the air, catchy enough to make me unconsciously nod to the beat.


Though we did not stay for the whole wedding (we only stopped by for a bit) we did get the chance to congratulate the brides. With intricate henna tattoos that reached their biceps, shimmering jewelry, and beaded saris, the brides accepted our “lagaan mubarak” (wedding congratulations). Though I’m not sure my Gujarti was understandable since all I can say is “Tamaru photo leku chu” (can I take your photo), I think our gesture was well received and overall, it was a successful event.


The next day, we spent the morning working and planning out the rest of the week, waiting for Zoha to come back so we could venture to the malls on the main road in Baroda. As we left the guesthouse Erica was confident in her navigation skills, but one wrong turn gave us a short excursion to Baroda High School. Erica and Zoha quickly figured out the confusion and we made a few turns toward our destination.

Erica and I wanted some kurtis to wear since the heat has been unkind to thicker western clothing, so with Zoha’s keen fashionable eye, we tried on at least 10 (together not individually) Erica and I both made some great purchases. I’m so excited to wear my kurti to Dolatpura!

Overall I think it was quite an eventful weekend filled with a blend of relaxation, a dash of field work, and a handful of fun: a great recharge for the busy week to come.

Day 5: Developments, Dancing, and Diversions!

Hey people! It’s Shilpen here. As the week draws to an end we have had a few developments that have made us anxious to get back to work on Monday. After debriefing with Viral (who returned from his break today) we discovered a composting toilet project that is to be completed in Katol. We are very excited to look into the research and concepts of this new project as it is extremely similar to the designs we had created during the school year. We also had a great visit with Manojbhai and his extended family today.


While in Dolatpura, we discussed some of the overall goals of our stoves project with Manojbhai and answered the questions and concerns he had for us. He was very enthusiastic and excited to work with us and help us make the stoves project a success. He was also very excited about the upcoming wedding of his niece and even had his family teach Erica, Kaylla, and Zoha how to do a traditional Gujarati dance called Garba.


Sai and I connected with some of the younger boys by playing Frisbee with them. Overall, we had a good day connecting with the people of Dolatpura and with Viral.

Day 4: A Day in Dolatpura!

Hey Everyone! This is Erica. I am pretty excited to be back in Gujarat. I’ve missed the food, the colors, and the noise. I think I can even say that the heat (108 degrees F today!) is bearable.

Today was our first day in Dolatpura. We spent a couple hours in the morning seeing all of our old friends and partners. It was exciting for me to see familiar faces (both at the factory and in Dolatpura). I even remembered some names! We wandered around Dolatpura visiting some houses and waving at people. All of the girls remembered me drawing the animals and made me get out my notebook.


One cool thing we saw were some monkeys (“vandro”) running through the village, jumping on the roofs, and drinking out of people’s water buckets. People threw rocks to keep them from stealing water. When the monkeys ran on the corrugated metal roofs, they made loud banging noises. At this point we were visiting Jenabhai’s family. His son told us that sometimes the monkeys damage the houses. I started to imagine the effect of having squirrels the size of small children running around and climbing trees in Michigan. I bet Michigan Squirrel Club would love that!


We also visited the woman who builds stoves, Sumitraben. She told us that she is planning on building a stove for her own house sometime soon; she said that we could watch. When we asked if we could help, everyone in the room laughed. We’ll see! Everyone in Dolatpura was excited because Sumitraben’s daughter is getting married this week. The wedding will last three days. Preparations were being made and music was playing in the streets. It is so exciting to be around at such a festive time!

I sat in on a talk about dreams with some of the girls in the village while the rest of the group played cricket outside in the street. Then, they dragged me out and made me play too. I felt super awkward with a cricket bat, but all the boys love to teach us how to play and don’t care that I am a beginner.


After visiting Dolatpura, we went back to the factory for a meal in the canteen. We quenched our thirst with Maaza mango juice and Thums Up cola. Yay for delicious Gujarati food!



Day 3: Serenading Setco

Hi friends, this is Kaylla, the token India first timer of the team! Our trip so far has been a series of traveling, but we have finally reached our destination after a four hour train ride from Mumbai to Baroda last night!


We’ve settled into the guesthouse, and are still waiting on Zoha’s arrival later this evening. This morning, we awoke to fresh chai and homemade poha topped with ketchup (apparently you can eat anything in India with ketchup…) and drove amongst cows and rickshaws to the Setco factory in Kalol.


I think the most exciting part of our 1 hour drive was observing the names of hotels along the road, ranging from “Hotel Decent” to “Hotel Great” though I was disappointed to not find a “Hotel Best” in the mix. After arriving at the Setco factory, we were introduced to the Setco foundation team whom we have been working with including Rajesh who joined recently, and Salma, who manages the logistics of the Setco foundation in Kalol. After presenting our plans, progress and goals to the team, we sat down to plan the rest of our week, as well as our visit to Dolatpura tomorrow. The rest of the afternoon was spent stumbling over Gujurati phrases with the help of Riya, who is staying with us at the guesthouse while she is gaining insight from the Setco Foundation’s work to expand her own NGO which gives Mumbai street children educational activities, food, and other resources to help their well-being. Looking forward to more great food!! (my favorite part of India thus far) – Kaylla

Namaste Mumbai! Namaste Baroda! Namaste Kalol!

Hey Everyone!

We made it! Three of us have landed and have taken refuge at a hotel in Mumbai. Shilpen came in last night and Erica and I came in at 5 AM on Monday. Kaylla landed Tuesday night. Today, we prepared our presentation for Urja. We are excited to update SETCO about our plans and go to Gujarat to meet everyone at the factory!

Addendum: We met with Urja and updated her about the progress we have made and our goals for the trip. We have arrived in Baroda! The train ride was amazing! We met Viral at the train station and arrived at the guest house and was welcomed by our caretaker Ramesh.