Day 28: Hodgepodge

Hey guys.. Anjali here… Since we’re pretty close to the and of the trip it was a pretty busy day so we split up into two groups. Sai and Sarah did a water boiling test on the traditional stove in the enclosure in the backyard. They got some really good data on particulate matter, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide levels in the smoke emitted by the traditional stove which will tell us exactly how dangerous these specific designs are as far as indoor air pollution. Collecting quantitative data ultimately helps back our reasoning for adoption of stoves in the village and contribute to any expansion plans we might execute in the future.

Meanwhile, Rushil, Natasha, Kaylla and I went to the village. Rushil and Natasha checked up on the toilet construction and talked to the contractor to make sure that the work is continuing smoothly and on track. The foundation for the soak pits is being laid out!


Kaylla and I talked to Sumitraben about building a stove in the Anganwadi tomorrow since Sangeetaben feels like it is a central location for people to be able to see the design, and she also wants to cook meals for the children on it as well. We also collected maati for the tomorrow’s stove so we could soak the mud and have it ready for use.

Finally, Natasha, Rushil and Sai went to Katol. Since one of our goals for our next trip to India is education about need of toilets and adapting toilets for whole villages, they went to check up on an existing toilets project in Katol. They evaluated if the needs for toilets is understood by the villagers and how as well as the number of the preexisting toilets in Katol are being used. While in Katol, they also got to see a judo instruction for girls led by a team member from the Setco Foundation. It was pretty cool to see girls throw these tall guys to the ground as well as witness another project aimed at female empowerment. All in all, a buys day.

Day 27: Brainstorm

Yo, Rushil here! What a day to be alive. We were at full power today as we had all six of our members traveling to Setco. After a hefty breakfast, we all loaded up in the car and journeyed out to the factory. In an attempt to call a stoves manufacturer, Natasha had an accidental conversation with Sai’s grandfather, which resulted in many laughs.  By the time we arrived, we were definitely in good spirits and ready for the long day ahead of us.

Once we got to the office, we created a schedule for the day. As this was finalized, we headed out to the village. At the village we went to Sumitraben’s house to look over the two burner stove that was built. Since there were cracks in the stove, Sumitraben had to apply lapedo to counteract this issue. Meanwhile, Sarah and Sai were measuring and documenting the dimensions of this stove to compare it to older prototypes. After this, they measured the final rocket stove design. Once they were done inside the house, they headed to her backyard. There Sarah, Sai, Kaylla, and Anjali measured the temperatures of the two burner stove and checked the appearance of the smoke. We were hit with some good news as there was no smoke being emitted and the stove was working relatively effectively.


Meanwhile Natasha and I were looking over the toilet construction. There was great progress made on the outhouse. The bricks had been constructed to the top of where the concrete slab will be placed.


Also, the compost bin excavation was just about finished as the hole had reached an astounding 10 feet in depth! Next step will be compost bin foundation. We documented this construction with some splendid action shots by Kaylla! But it wasn’t all work today! We also tossed the Frisbee around and had an intense game of soccer. After some good natured fun, we wrapped up our things and headed back to the factory.


Once back, we quenched our thirst with some delicious lemon water and went down to eat lunch with the rest of the foundation. It was nice to finally sit down for a while and get to know the team a bit more. Between great conversation and food, we really earned a much needed break.

Following lunch, we had an insightful discussion with Urja involving the short and long term goals of primarily the toilets project. Discussing and brainstorming ideas of future progress definitely helped drive us into a positive direction for the team in the upcoming year.

Day 23 & 25: Excavation & Iteration

Hey what’s up, hello, it’s Natasha. With Sarah not feeling well, Anjali unable to come to Baroda, and Rushil in Delhi, the team was down to three. However, today still had a lot in store.

The day started with picking up Viral from the factory and then heading straight to Dolatpura. The contractor was already in Chatrisinh Bhai’s backyard outlining the excavation space on the ground. When we got to the construction site, Sai and I checked all the measurements with a tape measure to make sure they were correct.


Before excavation started, the contractor, Prakash, cracked a coconut and placed 101 rupees with it for good luck. Seeing the digging begin was such an exciting feeling because of how much work everyone on the team has put into designing this toilet this year and the years before.


After finishing out conversations with the contractors and laborers, we went over to Sumitraben’s house to see if she would be avaliable to help build a new Chulha with a ceramic pipe on Monday. From her house, we then headed back to factory to eat lunch.

Kaylla was starting to feel the heat, so the team fell down to just two. Sai and I collected the mati and dropped it off at Sumitraben’s place for the upcoming chulha build on Monday.

Once we returned to the factory, it was time to give Mr.Harish Sheth a presentation about our project and what we have accomplished so far this trip. He listened intently and was excited about our progress.

After a long day the three of us headed back home to rest up.

Hey Guys! Anjali here now…..So today was pretty nice weather wise because it wasn’t so dusty or humid or even as hot as its been for the past couple days. This was a pleasant atmosphere since we were building a two burner stove with the ceramic chimney in Dolatpura. The problem with our old chimney made of sheet metal was that it was rapidly developing holes because of repeated heating. This time we tried to use a chimney made of ceramic material instead.


We started the day by going to Dolatpura and meeting up with Sumitraben. Sumitraben had dug up mati from the toilet dig and she decided to use that instead of the mati we’d sent on Saturday. She was really excited to try the new stove and made room for it in her house. We spent the afternoon helping her and her husband build the stove. The ceramic chimney was propped up on bricks and covered with mud to ensure proper support of the heavy new pipe. As we were building we noticed a lot of people coming around to check on the stoves and a lot of enthusiasm.


Two doors down, the toilet construction was moving along nicely. The foundation for the outhouse was completed and set to dry, the compost bin excavation has reached about 9 feet (1 ft to go!), and many of the materials have arrived. We checked all the dimensions for the bins and the quality of gravel to be put into the bins for composting. The remaining materials should be arriving tomorrow once the bin excavation is completed today. After seeing the progress that has happened just in the past two days, we are hoping that all technical and structural aspects of the toilet will be built before we leave!


Day 22: Specialization

Hello world, Sai here. We had another very eventful day today which started off with Anjali joining us at the guest house! The day began with a conversation with Salmaben about the plan for the day and an update from the contractor.

After the meeting, Salmaben, Kaylla and I went to a cement factory in Ghodra which is about 30 km away from the office. When we arrived to the cement factory, we explained our project and the dimensions we wanted for our cement chimney. The dimensions we want are not produced and sold in the market so we wanted to see if a local manufacturer could produce a few for us to test. Through discussion we found out that for the temperature capabilities we wanted of the chimney, a cement material would not be right. Instead, they suggested to use some sort of ceramic material which is more heat resistant and cheaper. This material is currently being used in hotels here as chimney exhausts. Now, we will start working on how to incorporate this material into our Chulha design.

Meanwhile, Viral, Natasha, and Rushil went to Dolatpura to meet with the contractor for a site survey at Chatrsinh bhai’s house. We have officially signed a contractor so we wanted to visit the location of the build and just make sure everyone knew the plan for construction. After mapping out the space of toilet in Chatrisinh’s backyard, the contractor examined the space and with some changes finalized the exact location with Chatrsinh bhai. Excavation for the compost bin and the outhouse foundation will begin tomorrow morning! Building of the toilet is finally happening!

At the office, Anjali worked on the translation of our indoor air pollution presentation and interaction of our toilet usage and maintenance document that will be given to Chatrsinh bhai. We will be giving the issue of indoor air pollution presentation to the whole Setco Foundation team next week. Meanwhile, Sarah worked on updating the blog and reviewing stove validation plans. We will likely be doing the validation tests more frequently next week when the temperatures cool to below 110 degrees.

After a long day of work, we returned to the guesthouse for much needed rest.

Day 21: Birthday

Hi everyone, it’s Sarah! Today started off like most days – with us rushing out the door of the guesthouse after inhaling our breakfast and chai. After getting to the office, we had a bit of time to check and return emails before Kaylla, Sai, and I left with Rajeshbhai for Kalol for a materials run.

We’ve decided to take our own crack at manufacturing a concrete pipe for a chimney because, as far as we know, the concrete guy has had little success and we are running out of time. We also want to try building chimney out of mati, which would keep the price of the stoves at the low price of free. So while we were in Kalol we bought one PVC pipe to wrap mati around to keep the inner diameter accurate, and another for the outside diameter of the concrete pipe. For the inner diameter of the concrete pipe, we bought some plastic laminate to create a removable inner tube that we’ll fill with sand while the cement sets. We’ll try building the pipes within the next couple of days, but today has been the hottest day we’ve seen yet so working outside would not have been in our best interest. Luckily, it should be cooling down so we’ll only be working in 100 degree weather! Maybe.


We returned to the office where Natasha and Rushil had finished checking the material and cost estimates given by the newly official toilets contractor, and were taking care of the rest of their wifi dependent work. Then out of nowhere, Salmaben walked into our usual office space with a birthday cake that read “Happy Birthday Sarah!” And so, I got to experience my birthday Indian style by getting cake fed to me and also smeared on my face (thanks, Natasha). The cake was absolutely delicious. Salmaben was also generous enough to treat us to dinner later.

All in all, it was an exciting day, and we’re looking forward to another tomorrow.  


Day 20: Hotter

Hello everyone, it’s Natasha! This morning we woke up with plans of heading out the door right at 8:30 A.M. However, when we got downstairs Krishna and the Toyota were both nowhere in sight.

Calling Krishna, we found out he had misplaced his car keys and would be over in 25 minutes. We ventured to the waiting area outside our guest house. Sarah and I swung on a swing bench where we all started playing our non-wifi required games on our phones. The usual Color Switch, Jelly Jump, Cloud Path, Zig Zag, Piano Tiles 2, and Stack were all in use.

The 25 minutes became a causal hour and half. A new driver finally arrived with a red Toyota Innova. We eventually got to the Setco Factory and quickly got up to date on toilet contractor news and plans for traveling to Dolatpura today.


Once we got to Dolatpura, we checked up on our rocket chulha (stove). Sumitraben explained she had lit the chulha once before and felt it was too tall and not wide enough. We also realized the chulha was not getting hot enough when we tried to boil water. I also had a fun time explaining airplane rides in Gujarati when Sumitraben asked if we had came here on a plane.


After testing the chulha, we wanted to get more mati so we could send the soil to a testing lab in Baroda. Sangeetaben’s son, Jignesh, helped guide us to the location of the black mati and after that we collected the lighter brown mati as well. The heat was intensifying and we were glad to travel back to the AC filled factory.


We spent some time in the office reflecting on the issues of the rocket chulha and doing some other tasks. Then at 5 pm, we headed out to the farm to meet with Chatrasinhbhai and his family to explain the use and maintenance of the composting toilet that will soon be built for them.


It was a good day of progress and, of course, glorious heat.


Day 19: Hot

Hey everyone, Sarah here. We had a sweltering high of 111 degrees Fahrenheit today, which, combined with the scheduled lack of power at the Setco Factory, made for quite the sticky day. After getting to the office, Rushil and Natasha continued checking their calculations and started refining the design drawings for the contractor. Sai, Kaylla and I then left with Viral to see about getting a concrete pipe made to use as a chimney.


The concrete guy, his workers, Viral and Sai had a long discussion over how they would go about casting a 4-inch diameter pipe. We brought two PVC pipes the sizes of our desired inner and outer diameters and some wire mesh for reinforcement, but concrete man thought that it would be more appropriate for his cement to reinforce it with a thick gauge steel wire cage. His workers started making the cage, and he estimated the whole pipe would take around an hour and a half to finish. The heat was starting to get to me and Kaylla, so we decided it would be good to return to the office to try to do other work while Sai and Viral stayed to watch the rest of the casting process.


They had some trouble with casting the pipe because we need a small gauge pipe to avoid making it too heavy for the mati to hold or for our stove builder to handle. After getting the PVC pipes set up to be evenly spaced, they propped it between bricks, and filled the inner tube with sand.


The plan was to pour the cement for the pipe, remove the smaller PVC from the middle (before it got stuck), and theoretically, the sand should have filled up the space where smaller PVC was to provide enough pressure for the pipe to retain its shape. But something didn’t quite work out and the pipe ended up in pieces. Sai and Viral left with a promise that the concrete guys would try again and hopefully have a pipe ready for us tomorrow.


There wasn’t much more we could do at the office, so we returned to the luxury of power and air conditioning at the guesthouse. There, we received a call from Salmaben saying that we could go drop off the mati sample we collected earlier at a lab for content analysis! We discovered we’ll need to collect a lot more than the handful of mati we had, but we’re super excited about the opportunity because we’ll finally understand what gives the mati its mysterious building properties we can’t quite replicate in Ann Arbor.


Day 18: Aesthetic

These past few weeks have been much saturated by testing, validation, and streamlining an effective design for stoves. We have pulled out all the fancy equipment that makes me feel extra legitimate, including but not limited to: stabbing needles on the end of wires into things on fire, shooting laser beams from a temperature gun, and gridding chalk with as much superb precision. It’s all very thrilling trust me. BUT as we have continued iteration focusing on the most effective design, we have let something extremely important choke in the dust: aesthetic.

Aesthetic is probably just as important as whether a design works or not because even if something has sound engineering, people might not feel compelled to use it because it’s ugly. Thus comes into play what occurred today.


If you’ve all been reading (thanks for staying tuned) you know that we just finished building the rocket stove design a few days ago with Sumitraben, so today we went back to Dolatpura to pull out the PVC pipes it was molded around, as well as add the lapedo coating. This seemed much like normal procedure except for one problem: one of the PVC pipes was so stuck to the inside of the stove that by trying to pull it free you picked up the whole stove along with it. After much struggle between the efforts of Sai and I (with me thinking all was lost), Viral as determined as he always is, came to the rescue. By dripping water between the pipe and the stove along with sheer superhuman strength Viral managed to free our stove **SUCCESS**

That really wasn’t much of an aesthetic thing, so here’s how that comes into play. With our stove liberated from the evil grasps of PVC, Sumitraben began to coat the rocket stove with lapedo (cow dung clay mixture) using the same technique as usual. Yet something was different this time!


Sumitraben started to decorate the stove with the coolest add ons and patterns I’ve seen, and after about 15 minutes, the rocket stove was transformed into what looked like an awesome maharaja palace castle hybrid. Several Dolatpura residents passed by and noted the sweet aesthetics, eager to see how the stove would work when dry. With the Sumitraben-crafted designs on the stove, I’m confident this iteration is more desirable than any before.


After our visit to Dolatpura, we made a pit stop at Kalol to buy a larger gauge PVC pipe to cast our cement chimney in. Since the metal has been disintegrating in around 2-3 months, we have been trying to come up with designs to make the stove more durable. Tomorrow we will visit the cement caster and he will help us pour it.


On the note of toilets team, Sai, Natasha, Rushil, and Viral are talking to the first contractor we previously spoke to in order to get different cost estimates on the whole system. We went through each component of the design for him to determine total volumes for material cost estimates. The conversation revealed a design flaw involving the angle of the pipe connections between the outhouse and the compost bins. After a long discussion we determined a solution and explained it to the contractor. Two and half hours later we went through the whole design and the contractor had all the numbers he needed for a cost estimate!

Day 16: Rocket!

Hey peeps, Sai as a stand in for Kaylla here! Today was another eventful day in Dolatpura. Since Sarah is feeling better, she came with us to the office! This morning we did some planning for the rocket chulha build including figuring out the appropriate dimensions. Natasha and Rushil were back at it again with the toilet design calculations and design modifications.

Before heading to Dolatpura for the stove build, we went with Rajeshbhai to Kalol to buy PVC pipes to help shape the rocket stove and some pots for our stove validation testing. We hopped around to a few stores until we found one with PVC pipes of the right diameter. There two kinds of pots we bought for stove testing; Tapela (a large pot for boiling water) and Cadai (smaller pot used to make cudi).


From Kalol, we went straight to Sumitraben’s house to build the rocket chulha. When we arrived, Rajeshbhai and Natasha helped to explain the stove design to Sumitraben. We then started to wet the mati and also mix in a darker mati which seemed to have a higher clay content. After the kneading was done, we started to form the rocket stove around the PVC pipes.


Everyone was very confused as to what we were building because it looked a bit different compared to their traditional chulha. The rocket chulha is taller and wider than the traditional chulha. After completing the build, Kaylla added a sun design on the opening of the chulha for aesthetic purposes. Meanwhile, I was running around taking pictures and Natasha and Rushil drew pictures with Alpa and Nimisha.


Day 15: Blueprint

Hey guys, Rushil here! It was quite a sultry day in Gujarat. We started the day off with a hefty breakfast thanks to Harish Bhai. Unfortunately, Sarah was feeling a bit under the weather so she decided to take the day off. We collected our bearings and departed for the Setco Factory.

Once we got to the factory, the team split up tasks. Sai went outside to work on the stoves validation in the S.T.O.V.E.S. structure. After the first safety test that happened yesterday, we decided that the testing should be done in a way where we can stay outside the structure and only go in to maintain the fire. He installed software on his computer to record and store carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide readings in real time. He then moved the stoves closer to the entrance of the structure and cut a little viewing window to be able to read the thermocouple and particulate matter sensor. With all the materials and the equipment set up, we will begin the water boiling tests on both stoves early next week!

Meanwhile, inside the workplace, Kaylla was working hard on the Stoves Info graphic poster. She utilized Photoshop to form a stove graphic design. The immense amount of effort she has put in graphics and editing has really improved the visual representation of our project. Also, Natasha and I were reworking some calculations regarding the possible conflict of compost bin dimensions. Rest assured, the conflict was resolved and everything was accounted for. Sai soon joined us once again and we discussed some edits to the indoor air pollution presentation that we will be presenting to the Setco Foundation team. We realized that some of the stats that we had found about biomass usage were not the most up to date, but we found more recent information to resolve this issue. With that final detail in place, we headed off to a much awaited lunch in the canteen.


Once back from our brief respite, we got our stuff ready to go to Dolatpura. First, we visited Sumitraben’s house with Salmaben. Selmaben discussed the upcoming build of the rocket stove as well as explaining Sumitraben’s role with the Setco Foundation.


We then visited the fields near their house to collect dirt to be used in constructing our rocket stove design. After getting back, we headed over to Chatrisinh bhai’s house to talk about the usage and the yearly maintenance of the toilet system.


Then we headed over to his backyard to show the layout of our entire system. We realized that the size of the whole system would have to be reduced. We happily said our goodbyes and drove back to the factory.


When we returned to the Setco Foundation, we mapped out the footprint of the toilet system on the lobby floor. After seeing the area the design took there and comparing it to the space it took in the backyard, we have decided to adjust the dimensions of the design. And that summed up our long day. We wrapped things up and headed home with great satisfaction.