Project Descriptions, Appropriate Technology, Fall 2015

Brief Description of Projects from Appropriate Technology Fall 2014

Refugee Management. Probably the biggest need in the news right now is refugee management- whether it be shelter, water or education. It’s all over the place. It would be worth it to spend some serious time researching/holding interventions/talking about all aspects of this major issue in the world. Potentially, this would be a different kind of project, that this student group could guide some of the education and class discussions related to this, as well as build communication with someone on the ground if possible.
Nepal Earthquake Relief and design for prevention. What can be done now to help those in devastated areas? How can we design a better tomorrow? Pramod Parajuli is a sustainability professor from Nepal. Garrett was in this class two years ago and is now in the US Peace Corps in Nepal. Garrett recently wrote me the following:
As I am placed in the Far Western Region of Nepal and the earthquake was in eastern Nepal, I am not involved with earthquake related efforts. I wish I was, but that is not the way Peace Corps operates. Either way, there is plenty of work to be done in my current area, earthquake-affected or not. (However, if there are any students who are set on working directly with earthquake-affected communities, I could probably find them some contacts).
What I have been up to:

  • Well, my smokeless cookstove work has dwindled. One, because a new stove (called the rocket stove) came to my area via another NGO and many people built that stove. Two, it has been the rainy season, making it difficult to dry bricks.
  • Making/promoting “tippy-taps” (hand-washing stations made from local materials) at schools and in communities.
  • Starting fruit/nut/spice tree nurseries in a few different villages of my area and teaching farmers how to graft and care for a tree nursery. My goal is that they can sell their grafted seedlings as well as plant them on their own land.
  • On the more social side, I’ve been trying to start a Alcoholics support group as well as built the capacity of the local youth clubs.

Some other challenges that might lead to cool projects:

  • Insufficient year round water is a huge problem in many villages. Lack of water effects sanitation (not bathing/washing hands as much), nutrition (not enough water to grow vegetables), and overall quality of life (it is not fun walking really far each day to fetch water). I’m thinking water catchment/storage systems at the household level.
  • Clean drinking water. Boiling water, chlorine, and sun purification are all things I’ve heard of here, with boiling water being the only one I have ever seen (and I’ve only met a handful of people who actually boil their water). Bio filters made from local materials could be a cool project and something testable.
  • Cook stoves/alternative cooking methods: It is a popular project for students and a very real problem with some quickly identifiable results. The “rocket stove” that came to my area has its believers but many people don’t like it. Most people like the stove I make, but it still uses firewood and deforestation is a huge problem. With new innovative stoves/cooking methods, heat generation is the biggest factor. If it cooks food too slowly people won’t use it.
Solar Concentrators. Solar cooking is the most well established failure in development. The technology has existed for many years, but for many reasons, communities don’t pick it up. Still some communities do and it provides great advantages. My (Pete) technical research is exclusively cooking with solar concentrators
(FB CP Solar Concentrators) and we are building solar kitchens at Cal Poly’s Student Experimental Farm (SEF: FaceBookSEF). I work with
Solar Cookers International and understand that the community is largely senior citizens, and they are angry because there is little government support for non combustion cooking methods to the point that they consider it a conspiracy of the fossil fuel industry. The party line of the powers that fund is that we shouldn’t develop solar cooking because no one in the US is willing to use it, so why should we promote it in developing countries. It’s kind of a ridiculous statement in so many levels (we don’t want to cook with cow poop either, nor twigs, and what about early adoption, etc.) Pat McArdle SCI journalist kind of documents this conflict in her video, We DO cook with Solar. Haiti, once a lush garden island is now almost completely deforested, partially in the quest for firewood. and are friends of ours living on Cal, but from Haiti. They are active in development efforts in Haiti and want to introduce solar cooking techniques. How do people in these villages live? How do they cook? What are their priorities? has a solar cooking business. He is a friend of mine, and interested to be a resource about challenges to adoption. Please read Killer in the Kitchens
We offer three projects regarding this:
1) Establishing Standards, Testing, and Certification: There are more than 100 models of solar cookers that you can find at the SCI website (Solar Cookers International ), and there is no way to compare and legitimize their claims. They had this problem with improved cook stoves, and so there is a cook stove network out of Berkeley that we visited that tests cook stoves. Summer 2015, Pete worked with two students, funded by SCI to build a certification network like this for solar cookers. You could work with Devin to learn more about this and we can build communication with a community that is interested in building a test center. Address some of the social, societal, political, corruption barriers to acceptance and implementation of solar cooking, or use of improved stoves.
2) We patented a new cooking technology we hope to implement in Rwanda (with Steph): I describe the idea in this video. We need to develop a plan with community to implement the new technology. Address some of the social, societal, political, corruption barriers to acceptance and implementation of solar cooking, or use of improved stoves.
3) We patented a new cooking technology we hope to implement in Ghana (with Nate): I describe the idea in this video. We need to develop a plan with community to implement the new technology. Address some of the social, societal, political, corruption barriers to acceptance and implementation of solar cooking, or use of improved stoves. Information about the Ghana Community: Report_1, Report_2, Report_3, Appendices_1, Appendices_2, Appendices_3
Solar Powered Community Garden in Ghana. Nathan Heston, physics instructor, is a returned Peace Corp Volunteer in Ghana. A well-designed solar-powered pumping system will guarantee water for the people renting the plots of land. This will expand the growing season to 365 days, which will more than off set the additional costs for renting the land. This project will involve community collaboration, financial considerations and technical design. We need to learn about the needs of gardeners in drought-prone areas.
Ashesi-Burro Collaboration: Learn about the Ashesi University: How can we design a collaborative Cal Poly / Ghana, business, and radical design school for sustainable technologies in Ghana?
Sanitation is a major challenge in the developing world. This is exacerbated (in my, Pete’s opinion) by the status placed on resource and energy intensive technologies adopted in the US where purified drinking water is mixed with feces in order to transport it in a sewer line to a central facility. This costs about $20,000 per person in Los Osos to install. In the developing world, this isn’t going to happen. But we can easily compost poop to provide a safe fertilizer, as evidenced by the success of SOIL in Haiti. So, why don’t people do this? We read about women being Defecation Rape Murder because they have to go out in the night and poop at the edge of town. But my family has been pooping in $10 bucket toilet at Pete’s House for the past 10 years, and putting the compost and urine on the plants without a problem. Can we communicate with these folks, can we understand and accept their priorities and inquire what could be done that might work for them. One idea is to leverage Schools: see page 24 WB Poverty Document. Can we introduce these technologies at schools where kids are presently defecating in the neighbors’ yards. What if we introduced a well-organized model that really worked great. Would the kids take the knowledge home? Would the parents come in to ask questions. has worked with our class for three years, and is presently employed at a company marketing an advanced composting toilet She is interested to be a resource for this group. Additional opportunities are to look at our own home, and the obstacles to alternative sanitation systems at Cal Poly. Can we introduce a bucket toilet system at Cal Poly’s Student Experimental Farm (SEF). This is something the SEF has an active interest in. The person to contact regarding requirements for installation is Scott Loosley Lastly, Steph has spent time at Santa Margarita Lake and is very impressed with the toilets there. How about a field trip? We have a new partner in Haiti – who collaborates with SOIL in Haiti.
Menstruation in Tibet,
The practice of chhaupdi is one that dates hundreds of years. It’s a potentially deadly practice where women during their menstration cycles are considered untouchable and banished to uninsulated, dark huts until the bleeding stops. This is particularly dangerous in the societies that practice chhaupdi after child birth when it is crucial for a baby to maintain heat. Sanitation and gender roles have come into the media a lot in the last few years and this topic is a very hot button issue right now as seen in this Time article. The challenges come with the fact that remedying these practices will be changing cultural norms that are accepted and misunderstood. has worked with our class for three years, and is presently employed at a company marketing an advanced composting toilet She is interested to be a resource for this group. Look at the WASH movement and organizations associated with these initiatives.
Coffee in Haiti. Haiti used to produce 60% of the worlds coffee. Due to no environmental laws protecting this industry, deforestation has erased this chapter of Haiti’s history. There are a few organizations that aim to bring coffee groves back to Haiti and in turn provide jobs for a jobless country. was in our class several years ago. He is from Haiti and now lives in Cal. His still very involved with development efforts in Haiti – one of them is how to reintroduce the coffee business. One of the challenges is drying, so maybe we look into Solar Drying in Rwanda for some advice. For fertilizer, you can use SOIL in Haiti.
Amazon Filtration System, Lupe is a recent Cal Poly grad and is championing intending to provide clean drinking water inexpensively in developing countries. Access to clean drinking water is a crucial challenge in many developing countries. Lupe is interested to work with your group. Cal Poly Professor Ryan Walter has experience with water purification systems. Please contact him: There is also interest to have a holistic effect on the village – that is collaboratively engage them and work on the things they are concerned about. One of Lupe’s partners, Daniel Ebbs (, a Cal Poly graduate, wrote me the following, of which I understand only a little:
the CHW is the answer to address future health education/access gaps in the very rural world, and technology has been growing stronger for education, surveillance, and online protocol guidance; all of our protocols we are creating for malaria tx, ped. rehydration, osteopathic manipulations, etc. will be based on following algorithms co-designed by the communities on the tablets; we could really use help in the future to build on this program with innovative ways to educate the communities using technology; anyways, thanks for responding,
Natural Building, Sustainable Living Research Ordinance (Initiative) – The mantra is “legalize sustainability!”. Our building codes prevent alternative building techniques that could provide beautiful, functional homes inexpensively from locally available resources. Because we are not allowed to build outside the code, few people do. Because few people do, we don’t develop new codes. There are a few communities where you can find natural building that is beautiful beyond your belief until you see it, for example, two hours southeast of Cal Poly. Our friend Ben Werner is presently championing efforts to allow experimental dwellings described in Article on SLRO and Ben Werner’s Talk, and you can register for the SLRO discussion in Santa Barbara on Sept 25. Additionally, please read about some technologies: Fungus Bricks, HempCrete Video, Plastic Bricks and Mark Phillips builds with Packistan Strawbale Organization. Also, Cal Poly Professor Eltahry Elghandour, specializes in natural building fibers, and Arlin was a student of Pete’s and has started a company to make cement sponge building materials.
Improved Stoves.
Half the world’s people cook by burning biomass of some kind (please check this statistic). This presents several challenges – finding the fuel, impact on the environment, and the hazards of indoor air pollution, as described in Killer in the Kitchens. Making better, safer, more efficient stoves is big business in development, as well as studying how these stoves are accepted and used.

Our classes have some history working on stoves, both at Cal Poly’s Student Experimental Farm and with Guateca in Guatemala: Guateca Stove Project in Bolivia works with: CEDESOL Video. I have received the following information:

We have a Prakti Double Pot Wood Stove ( on loan from the German Society for International Cooperation. This stove is selling like crazy in India and helping people from Haiti to Africa. We have noticed a few issues with the Prakti stove and also aspects we would like to adopt in our redesign. I’m currently using Google Sketch Up (only Windows XP computers here) to draft a new design based on discussions David and I have had. Because I will be leaving soon I wanted to connect Cal Poly with CEDESOL. I agree, if this quarter doesn’t work we can build a relationship for the coming years. Although CEDESOL produces solar cookers the current focus is on the rocket stove redesign.

Material for UNIV-391:
– Appropriate technology and social acceptance go hand-in-hand.
– What type of stove do impoverished bolivian families want and need? High altitude climate vs. hot jungle?
– Why would an impoverished family want a nice stove over one that “just works?” What is the benefit for a family to purchase a stove rather than an organization give it to them?
– How do carbon credits work?
– How does CEDESOL train new stove owners?
– How does CEDESOL establish local entrepreneurs to assist with stove maintenance?
– What other education does CEDESOL provide to local communities?
– How does CEDESOL monitor and conduct stove surveys?
– How does CEDESOL create local bolivian jobs in the production of new stoves?

Material for UNIV-392:
– Why change the current design (pros and cons)? A conversation is needed to discuss the current stove and its limitations.
– What materials are locally available? Material selection.
– Local manufacturing? (Currently prisoners in Cochabamba manufacture many of the components for the CEDESOL stove)
– Solidworks/ 3D modeling
– Prototyping

He provides the following:

CEDESOL Rocket Stove_design review.pdfFunctional Design Review on Prakti Double Pot Wood Stove.pdf

Additionally, Jim Keese, is the co-creator of
Cal Poly Study Abroad in Peru. One of the activities is to build improved cook stoves in rural indigenous villages. Traditional stoves use open fires inside of houses. The new stoves burn wood more efficiently, thus reducing pressure on scarce forest resources. They also have chimneys that reduce indoor air pollution, with notable health benefits, especially for women and children. Working with the NGO ProWorld Service Corps, Cal Poly students have been assembling locally-designed stoves in villagers’ homes for the past eight years. However, so far there has been no follow up to see if the stoves work well or are even used. Jim is going on sabbatical this year to visit these villages and follow up on the project. His goal is to determine what factors contribute to the adoption and sustained use of the improved cook stoves.

New Aid Model, Haiti, once a lush garden island is not almost completely deforested, partially in the quest for firewood. are friends of ours living on Cal, but from Haiti. They are active in development efforts in Haiti. Eden and Karen ( have an optimistic idea about how to “save” some villages with education and improved agricultural and living techniques. This may sound naive, but isn’t it what our friend Alex Petroff did with in D.R. Congo? Is this what Haiti Communitere is trying to do? What can we learn about people and how they/we may respond to an external intervention?
Accessibility for disabilities
A few months back I (Steph) was able to speak with the co-founder of Braille W/O Borders. BWOB is an organization that works with blind sherpa kids in Tibet, teaching them how to read and move about in a world full of light. Paul told me that it isn’t the darkness that is inhibiting for blind people, it is the seeing world. Blindness is just one of many disabilities that need to be brought into the public eye in developing countries, the 15 country study is a great resource for this. More often than not when you enter a village you will never see a person with a disability, be it mental or physical. It isn’t because they do not exist. It is because they are usually restricted to a room for their entire life, often dying at very young ages. A great movement that hit the humanitarian design scene a few years ago was providing wheelchairs for those who need them most. Check out and as examples.
Famine Famine is a complex issue that can result from a number of factors. Natural disasters, war and conflict, corruption and a myriad of other problems have resulted in famines across countries. This is a very concept and people like Working Villages have taken a stab at solving this issue. Are there any programs that can be proactive in preventing famine as a result of conflict? What technologies/educational programs can be introduced after famine has struck to remedy these communities?
Refugee Management In the last 10 years, organizations like Architecture for Humanity have made a living out of creating management systems for refugees. A situation that hits very close to home is what happened after Hurricane Katrina. Where did all of those people who lost their homes in the 9th ward end up? Where are they today? In countries where conflict is the norm not the exception, like Israel, whole groups of people are left piecing together shelter. This can lead to overcrowding, seen here in Somalia, and instability and danger in other places. One area that architects can really make a difference is designing master plans for Refugee camps and designing spaces that mitigate confrontation in tight quarters (look into relief housing competitions for precedent studies on this issue). The New York Times ran an interesting article claiming that they had the formula for the perfect refugee camp. My feelings (Steph’s) is that until implemented in Chad, in Norther Uganda, in Australia and beyond, we will never know if it truly is the solution to this problem. What is your solution?
Natural Disaster Off the top of your head, what are a few natural disasters that you can think of in the last year or two? Earthquakes should come to mind (one in Chile), tsunami’s (aka typhoons, aka hurricane’s) should conjure up Katrina and the Philippines and volcanic activity (Iceland) are just a few. What are some ways that organizations like FEMA have the right intention on disaster relief but fail to deliver sufficient solutions? Is there a better model of relief aid that should be researched? Or should we focus more on preventative solutions than post-trauma treatment to these disasters?
Maternal Care Social impact design has long been an advocate for maternal care. The Maama Kit is a perfect example of how something so well accepted in our first world society can totally revolutionize a developing nation. Non-profit design houses like D-rev have been making such amazing strides on maternal and baby care that TED recently honored 5 designers that are saving babies lives with their technologies. This topic can also involve things like family planning, a great example of which can be found in Africa.
New Aid Model, Haiti, once a lush garden island is not almost completely deforested, partially in the quest for firewood. and are friends of ours living on Cal, but from Haiti. They are active in development efforts in Haiti. Eden and Karen ( are interested in supporting the
Eden Project. Pete has some difficulty with this program because it seems largely about raising money, and there are lots of examples illustrating that this doesn’t work. However, this is what Alex Petroff did with How can we interact with this organization meaningfully? How can we look at other peoples’ lives? How can we consider our own efforts to undo the damage to our own land such as the people at
Haiti Water Project. Tim Cleath, is a hydrogeologist and works in development in his spare time. He drills wells and helps people learn how to manage them. He has developed an inexpensive well driller with Cal Poly students and professors, and it is on its way to Haiti. He is working with Al,, and Karen,
Aquaponics – growing fish and vegetables simultaneously. Please look it up on Wikipedia or the like. We have a great aquaponics facility at the Student Experimental Farm and last year the Aquaponics group worked so well with them that one of the students (Kylie, listed as a correspondent) is now in Rwanda building a facility. Please contact her and see their project from last year.
Fair Trade Chocolate: Professor Tom Neuhaus Started Project Hope and Fairness to help African chocolate farmers reap profits from their cocoa. This chocolate is sold fair trade through Mama Ganache. Farmers would gain much more profit if they processed the cocoa into chocolate instead of just selling the chocolate beans, so Tom is trying to develop chocolate production in Africa with the farmers. He’s in Africa now and writes about his efforts on the Mama Ganache Blog. In winter, 2014, a group of appropriate technology students developed a Cocoa press for him to take to Africa as their project. Please read more about it in Winter 2014 Cocoa Press.
The sort of problem he is interested in is market-based. For example, what are the barriers to building small business? How do you get a chocolate bar into a supermarket? A big barrier is that I am mostly working in Cote d’Ivoire, which speaks only French. My contact there is David. However, Evariste who lives in NYC now speaks English and is in constant contact with David.