Day 2: Meeting SETCO

Hey everyone,

This is Mike checking in. Our second day was super informative… and jet-lagged. Most people are still running on a 5pm-1am internal sleep schedule, but we’re getting there.

After eating breakfast, we headed over to SETCO Headquarters to meet with Neethu (Exec. Director of the SETCO Foundation) and Viral (who has been helping with our project too). The day was largely informal. Using our design review presentation, we talked out every aspect of our project and progress (over some unreal Indian Chai tea), and got great feedback. Neethu and Viral also clarified a ton of information about Kalol and the water situation in the town. After that, we planned out our first few days in Kalol; tomorrow, after we move to Vadodara, we will go to Kalol and get oriented in the SETCO factory. We’ll also get to meet Priyank Gandhi!! Priyank is a Civil Engineering student who lives in Kalol, and will be helping us with our project. It will be awesome to get to know an engineering student who knows the town and is the same age as us.

Later in the day, we explored Mumbai some more. We went to the Phoenix mall and the Hanging Gardens of Mumbai. As we were moving around the city, the income disparity really stuck out to me. We would see homeless people and run-down shacks, and then a Lamborghini or million dollar house, all within the same line of sight. There must be a middle ground between poor and rich, but it is certainly hard to spot. For example, we passed by Antilia, a billion dollar skyscraper, staffed by 600 people, that houses ONE billionaire and his family. This is estimated to be the most valuable private home in the world, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. For this reason, I think it is misleading to just say that the per capita income of Mumbai is three times the national average… the few that are super wealthy (and/or tied to Bollywood), drive up the average.

A few other things that we noticed: Firstly, “Head Bobbling,” which looks similar to shaking your head to mean “no”, can mean “yes,” “no,” “I understand,” or “okay.” We’re definitely still trying to get used to different social cues. Secondly, a lot of cars have bumper stickers that say “Honk OK Please,” because honking is strongly encouraged on the roads. The way that the driving culture is, cars are constantly weaving in and out of traffic, and getting very close to other cars. Because of the close proximity, drivers cannot pay as much attention to their mirrors, and just look forward instead, honking to signal their presence to other cars. The sheer skill of the drivers on the road is pretty amazing, though. It makes sense; it’s obvious that bad drivers would be weeded out super quickly here.

Our day pretty much ended around dinner time. A bunch of us passed out early at 7pm. We have an early 4:30am wakeup Tuesday, and a 7:55am flight to Vadodara to look forward to. We’re excited to see what Vadodara and Kalol are like!





“Adventures with Easygel” and “Wandering the Streets of Mumbai”

Hi All:

This is Erica; just letting everyone know that we are indeed, alive, safe, and mostly well in Mumbai (a few of us are nursing colds, but with a family pack of cough drops and beautiful 110 degree F weather, those shouldn’t last long). The flights were mostly uneventful. The food wasn’t great. Jon watched Frozen. Mike watched Nebraska. Brianna was surrounded by three screaming babies for nine hours.

The most exciting part of transit was our adventures with Coliscan Easygel. As many of you may know, we are planning on doing some water testing in Gujarat, so we brought some water testing kits. These kits of specially treated petri dishes and bottles of gel needed to be refrigerated throughout our travels. This made things interesting. Our chosen method of refrigeration was a lunchbox and ziplock bags of ice; however, we could not take water or ice through security, so we had to dump it before we went through and then get ice at a fast food place in the terminal. The first two airports were fairly easy; a McDonald’s had an exposed ice machine and a Sbarro’s was generous enough to fill us up. Then came France.

The Paris airport is Extremely Classy; the most approachable place was a Starbucks, but it was packed and there was a long line and Oh! our flight was boarding in five minutes. If it weren’t for a caviar and lobster bar, we might have been out of luck! So, leave it to me to walk up to a classy restaurant in CDG clutching ziplock bags and begging for ice. Spoiler alert: I survived. We got ice. Our Easygel kits are now housed safely in our hotel fridge. We will be testing water in Gujarat, India.


The morning after we arrived in Mumbai, we ate breakfast and then wandered. We went to the markets at Colaba, the Gateway to India, and the Indian supermarket. As we were wandering, I was observing the way that people treated their trash: peels from fruit, newspapers, and random pieces of plastic. There is a lot of trash on the streets, but people seem to sweep it away from the fronts of their businesses. So, do people view trash as a problem? They keep throwing it on the ground, but they also don’t seem to want it there.

I guess that talking about trash in Mumbai isn’t really the point of what I was thinking. After we observed the trash, we started talking about needs in a community. If people don’t really view trash in the streets as a problem, who are we to say that it is? What if the trash causes disease, but people don’t realize it? Where is the line between developing a technology that is 100% desired by the community and developing a technology that isn’t completely accepted, but can be paired with education to solve a problem? Who decides the problem? Is there a happy medium?

So many questions. We’ll keep yall posted.

Hanging in there,


PS: Jon will be turning on his phone for his Birthday.

Beginning to Design

As the new year and another semester begin, we have begun to design our first physical filters. The ceramics team had their first meeting with the Ceramic Studio in the Art & Design building here on campus on January 17 and are planning on continuing to work there as we begin to learn how to construct a working ceramics filter.

Our first meeting consisted of creating a mold, using a flower pot, some clay, and a lot of plaster, that will be used in the future as the outline for the shape for our filters. Image

In this picture Mitch is using his hand to help cushion the flow of the plaster as Jon pours it from the bucket onto their flower pot mold so that it does not splatter or disturb the already forming plaster.

Our next meeting will involve using the mold  to begin testing  different mixtures of clay, sawdust, and water to create a porous and effective filter, and we are very excited to get started.

The biosand team is also getting ready to start building a prototype. We are finishing up Basic 1 and Basic 2 training, which will give us access to the Wilson Center. The Wilson Center is a student team project center that will have all of the resources we need to create and test the filters.

If you wish to see the rest of the photos taken during our first visit to the Ceramics Studio please visit our photo gallery.

Fall Semester Wrap-Up

As we enter into the next phase of our work in preparing for traveling to India in May, we have restructured our sub teams so as to most effectively research, design, and build two different types of filters for the people of Katol and Kalol. Our leadership team has met several times over the past couple weeks to discuss our options in how to approach the challenge of designing these filters. It has been decided that there will be the creation of two big design teams. One team will focus on ceramic filters, which will be used in household settings, and the other team will create a biosand filter, which will be placed in the anganwadi we will be working with during our trip in May. Each sub team leader to keep track of design progress and each group will also have a member from the culture team so as to make sure our designs work with well with local customs and daily life. 

At our final meeting for the semester, which took place on December 9, we created a list of what success means to us in this project. We also created a list of goals we wish to complete at different points throughout next semester, including by the end of break, our next internal design review, and by the time we step onto the plane to India.  Our team is working hard to stay on track with designing the filters, communicating with our contacts in the SETCO foundation and locals in Katol and Kalol, and getting done all that needs to be completed for us to successfully travel to India and implement our filters.  As our fall semester comes to end, we are very happy with the progress we have made over the past four months, but we realize that there is a lot more to be done. We are so excited to see what the New Year brings for BLUElab India!

External Design Review Summary

The Design Review that took place on November 16th was a huge success! After a great Panera breakfast provided by our friends at BP, our presentation went really well: we filled all of BLUELab in on our progress, and received some great suggestions, like working with the art school to build ceramic filters and considering gray-water reuse as another supply option. The Design Review provided a great opportunity for us to evaluate our progress and figure out where to go from here. There will be a lot more updates to come as we move forward with our ethnographic research and design process.


The Internal Design Review was a success!


The Internal Design Review on Monday October 28, 2013 was a wild success, while over chocolate chip pancakes and apples juice each group discussed the research they had been doing over the past two months.

The supply group discussed their ideas of using roofs and funnels for rainwater catchment, damming, and water wells as collect water on a regular basis for the villages.The storage group’s research resulted in the possibilities of being able to store collected and filtrated water in earthen pots, plastic containers, sintex tanks, and the Wello waterwheel.  The purification team went over the research they did for several different types of filtration including SODIS, chemical filtration, ceramic filtering, and biosand filtering.  The information shared by the culture team included the climate of Gujarat, the socioeconomic statistics of the villages, and cultural traditions we should be aware of when designing our systems and when we travel to the villages in May.  The presentation also informed us about the aganwadis we will be collecting water for and the ways that the government is involved with getting clean water to the people of India.

This internal design review we a great success and allowed for everyone in the group to see how each subteam is using their time to research the many different options out there for collecting, purifying, and storing water.  Now it is time to move forward and build onto this foundation.  Our next steps are getting all of our questions answered about Katol and Kalol and to narrow down our research so that we can begin to create a plan for what our filtration system. Our next design review will be the External Design Review with the entire BLUElab team, taking place on November 11, 2013.