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Long overdue update

Hello world,

It’s been way too long since I’ve updated this blog.  I have many thoughts on these issues, and there are people who have posted comments or are related to this blog in some other way to whom I dearly need to respond.

The Local Chlorine Production and Chlorine Dosing IDDS 2009 teams combined forces in September 2009 and recruited several other business-minded folks from the Berkeley, CA area.  We have all been working hard in our separate locations of the world to push things forward.  More prototyping is occurring as is much business planning and grant/business plan competition application writing.

Most recently, our team was accepted to participate in the 2010 NCIIA March Madness for the Mind exhibition in San Francisco, CA next month.  Suprio will be flying in from India to represent our team along with other team members currently located in California.  Below is an attached image of our project currently visible on the NCIIA website.

I’ll be posting more updates and other thoughts which I should have articulated long ago as I am able.  Please feel free to ask questions directly through the comment function.  This will definitely lead to a quicker response.  😉



["Mereko" = "I am leaving" in Twi]

Today was the IDDS 2009 Closing Ceremony. It is very sad to think about saying goodbye to all of the wonderful friends I have met here. I was worried I might never see many of them again, but other veteran IDDSr’s quickly comforted me by describing how surprised they always are by how tight the IDDS community stays. There is still much work to be done. What a great excuse to continue working with these wonderful people!

This will most likely be my last post from Ghana. I am in my room with Daniel packing at this very moment. We leave for Accra tomorrow. We will be attending Maker Fair Africa with our prototypes. Our large group is going to take over an entire hostel in the city! I leave for JFK and then Cbus on Saturday. I look forward to catching up with some of you in person. For others, I will continue to post some more thoughts after I return home.

Final Presentation Posters

Below I have included PDFs of our posters which my team will present tomorrow at the final presentations.  The first poster will also be sent to each of the ten villages IDDS teams have visited over the past month.   I personally visited four of these villages.  Many of the people I met during these visits are being transported by IDDS to Kumasi tonight so that they can attend the presentations tomorrow.

The content is not very technical on purpose.  The most beautiful part of our siphon design is not very well explained.  I will need more time to explain, and will do so later, but for now: the hydrogen gas actuates the siphon when it reaches a set volume.  This correlates directly to a known amount of chlorine produced, and is entirely independant of the rate at which production occurs!  Beautiful.  If you have questions, please ask!  I look forward to explaining this better after I return and have speedy internet again.  Cheers!

Local Chlorine Production Final Presentation Posters

Crunch time

I just returned from my third and final village stay. This time my whole team of six traveled together (with three other teams) to the villages of New Longoro, Gomboi, and Dwere. Our team took five different working prototypes for people to interact with and redesign with us. We had a very positive response and are now working to finalize our design(s) and prototype(s). We must also create a poster and short presentation for the big finale early next week!

As Timothy, my Ghanain friend, says, I am tired like a pregnant fish! Goodnight. 🙂

IDDS Family Fun

We had our first design review last Friday at the Intermediate Technology Transfer Unit (ITTU) of KNUST at Suame Magazine (a giant industrial scrap yard/craftsmen workspace/small business paradise).  This involved much preparation and a presentation by each team on their current problem framing and design(s).  The idea was to get feedback on our progress and solicit knowledge from other IDDS participants as well as the faculty and staff of the ITTU.  Our review went reasonably average.  My expectations for the quality of presentations (both those I give and those given to me) are inevitably too high.  So it goes.

This past weekend was our first and only free weekend at IDDS.  I spent almost all of it having fun with the people here.  We went dancing, took a day trip to Cape Coast, and I attended several “How-Tos”.  These taught me how to make a very effective solar water heater out of almost entirely recycled materials as well as how to make several types of inexpensive biodigesters.  Go cool technology!!

Cape Coast Castle

Atop the Cape Coast Castle (main exit point of slaves headed to the Americas)


Andres and Jess just before getting soaked by several huge waves

Monday night was international potluck night.  We were told to group ourselves into countries/regions and cook large batches of traditional food.  I have never had such an incredible array of delicious food at one time.   Some other Americans helped me make buckeyes!  Despite being pure sugar, chocolate and peanut butter, most people enjoyed them.

The past few days have been a blur of design, prototyping, business planning, electrolysis science, and people.  Stay tuned.

Before I go, I must give a special hello to my man, the money, Robinson.  He managed to get a personal “hello” out to me via Ruben, a Guatemalan IDDS participant here with me in Ghana.  Glad to hear you’re doing well!

We’ve produced…something!


Jess, Barnard and Ste in the main Kumasi market buying dynamos and searching for electronics. Note the Guiness billboard - Guiness is brewed in Kumasi!

Late last night my team (with some great help from IDDS superstars Barnard and Nagle) connected two stips of aluminum can (electrodes 1.0) to a dynamo (an AC generator) which we installed on an old bicycle. We then put the aluminum ends into a highly saturated salt-water solution. The pedals were cranked and vola! Bubbles!!! In the characteristic electrochlorination reaction H2 gas is formed so bubbles should occur. A DC battery produced an even more pronounced effect. While we could never smell chlorine, and mad green and black gunk (aluminum oxide compounds I presume) formed on the electrodes, our first attempt did produce something!

Baby steps, right?

Village Visit Number Mmienu

Wo ho te sehn?? [How are you?? in Twi and Mmienu means two]

I just returned from the village (more like small rural town) of Offuman.  My Ghanain teammate, Amiinu, and I were very surprised to find that Affuman has a central chlorination and water distribution system (installed by the government many years ago).  We had a great time with the water technician, Paul, who manages the chlorination process and manually adds the chlorine every three days.  He currently buys chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) tablets in bulk from the nearest commercial town.  We did some quick calculations and preliminarily concluded that, given the price of salt in Offuman, a small scale electro-chlorination machine could save the town’s water board money and could allow for small volumes of concentrate to be sold to those wanting to chlorinate river water on their own.  We still need to do a full calculation which includes the payback price of the machine itself, though, I am very positive about this new direction.

Woman of Offuman collecting cholorinated water

Woman of Offuman collecting cholorinated water

Paul spent a few hours with us going through different design options. After he told us he would prefer to produce the small amount of electricity required using pedal-power (over a hand crank, solar, batteries, etc.), we found an old bicycle to use to visualize different design options. Location of insulated volume, type of cap, type of measuring system, etc., etc.) It was co-creation at its best!!! Now, assuming we can pull through with a working prototype, Paul will be invested into the project as he was a part of the design from the start, and the solution itself should be appropriate for his community as it was designed from his perspective (I love this!). Provided we go with this scale (four of our other team members went to smaller and more primitive villages), we will build a prototype and bring it to Paul in two weeks for him to test and offer more refinement suggestions. Then, we have a few more days for tweaks before we have our final presentations (Ste recently let me know representatives from the Gates Foundation (not Bill) will be in attendance!). Of course, representatives from all of the villages have also been invited. Then, after IDDS officially closes, we’re off to the Inter-African Maker’s Fair to display all twelve new prototypes!

Outside of design work, two friends (Joseph and Carla) and I stole a few hours one night to have a drink at Affuman’s local bar. There is one local beer that I really like (it is a Ghanain stout!). Much of our conversations kept coming back to Obama. It is amazing to see how much hope he has brought to people of all countries. Joseph is from Tanzania, loves Obama, and feels he needs to take care of the U.S. first because they elected him and there will be plenty of time for Africa later. Carla was actually in DC for election day and had never felt such an atmosphere. From the way she described it, I really wish I had been in DC at that time (sigh: thesis, class, capstone project…). Ever since I visited Europe two years ago and started learning about all of the destructive global policies of the U.S. during the past few years, I have been a little discouraged about America. It didn’t help growing up in Ohio, a state which is almost always portrayed as the most uninteresting, rural and run-down state in America. Though, over the past year which has culminating in my talk with Joseph and Carla, I have become more and more proud of the U.S., Ohio, and Columbus for that matter. Americans are a uniquely diverse collection of hard-working good people, and I am proud to be one of them. It was great to honestly feel this way.


Ste and Ghana welcome the Obama family!