Plans and aims for eight weeks in Tanzania

For the upcoming eight weeks, we have planned a whole lot of things. How to integrate the travel in the overall project, what goals we are pursuing and what exactly we have planned, we want to share with you in this entry. 

The last preparations before the journey

First, it is important to know that we are defined as a research project and therefore our ways of implementation may differ from other Engineers without Borders projects (Exploration, Implementation, Evaluation), which usually follow a similar structure. For about nine years, the group has now been working on the SoWaDi-device and has accomplished quite a bit: the concept was elaborated, prototypes were constructed, a manual was created, devices were built in Darmstadt and Tanzania and technical improvements were carried out. 

What we are missing at this moment are long-term data, to maximize the output for the consumer, therefore we are still in a stage of testing. On the one hand the device built in Darmstadt this year, will serve for this purpose, as it was equipped with measurement instrumentation. But analyzing this data one has to keep in mind that the conditions in Tanzania are very different, than the ones we have in Germany. Therefore having long-term information on devices stationed in Tanzania would have be of great value for our work in the future and to achieve this, is one of the goals of this travel. Ensure the communication lines with the consumers and built as many devices as possible to maximize the data output.  

In summer 2019, our plan was to send out a team for six weeks, consisting of three people and building respectively two devices at two different locations. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were able to extend it up to eight weeks, a four-people-team and add another location with two more devices. This gives us the chance to make a better comparison between the different units. Are the devices working better on one location or the other? Is there some kind of difference between the ones at the same location?

Other aspects will also be handled during the travel. The distribution group prepared a questionnaire for user, local NGOs, craftsperson and public authorities, which will help us to narrow down the main target group to perfectly adapt the device to their needs. The construction manual was also improved and will help to build up the devices with the locals. 

January the 8th Edgar, Jonas and Julius are the first getting on a plane with the destination of Tanzania. The first days will be all about meeting up with the project partner to plan more detailed their stay at the different spots. The following two weeks will be spent at Malage VTC in the area of Mwanga, where in 2017 two devices were built, which are not working at the moment. Our plan is to repair and update them both to our current standard of knowledge.  

After Mwanga the next stop will be at Kidia in Old Moshi, where the plan is to stay three weeks and built two devices. Jonas will not stay the whole three weeks, but will leave after the first one to meet up with Rebecca, who will be joining the group in Tanzania at that point.  

To maximize the profit that comes with a four-person-group, the group will be splitting. While Julius and Edgar finish up the work in Kidia, Jonas and Rebecca will be meeting up with different organizations for filling out the questionnaire, before travelling to the third location: a school in Boma Ng’ombe. 

Edgar will be leaving after finishing the devices in Kidia, so after the first 6 weeks. That is when Julius will be joining the others in Boma Ng’ombe. At the end of the 8 weeks Julius, Jonas and Rebecca will be visiting again all three locations with the goal of bringing all the users together. For us it is important that not only the communication between our group ant the users is fluent, we also want to give them the possibility to communicate among themselves without us being around.  

The mission team introduces itself

After three years of waiting the time has come: The next SoWaDi mission!  Three years in which a lot has happened. We built the devices not only once but twice here in Darmstadt, tried coming up with a concept of distribution,learned a lot about the device itself and brainstormed ideas on how to install measurement instrumentation to obtain long-term data.

The waiting was worth it and the team travelling to Tanzania does not come short on motivation, communication skills nor competence. It consists of Edgar, Jonas, Julius and Rebecca.  

From left to right: Sara, Jonas, Julius, Rebecca and Edgar

Edgar is one of our only members of the local group with long-term work experience; but not only does he contribute efficiently to the sub-group performance; he is also more than talented in the area of handcraft. Within the team, he is the expert when it comes to buying material and the workshops, which will be held in Tanzania concerning water quality, hygiene and the functioning of the device.  

Jonas also brings three years of work experience into account and his job as implementing engineer has given him the chance to work some time abroad, which is more than valuable for the journey. Within the team, Jonas is the longest member that is part of the group and since last years, he has taken over the responsibility of being one of the group leaders from SoWaDi; he therefore is the project leader and the responsible person for the project cash. 

At the same time Jonas became one of our leaders, also Julius decided to give leadership a chance. At the moment he is finishing his master in mechanical and in computational engineering. He has been part of SoWaDi for about one and a half years and has committed to improving the device ever since. In addition to the duties as head of the team, Julius also contributes to the performance group, which attributes him the role as technical expert during the stay in Tanzania as well as being responsible for water sample taking and testing. 

Rebecca only joined the team a few months ago but has happily agreed to join and support our three experts in Tanzania, adding therefore a little bit of female power, which can only be positive. She is a Sustainable Urban Development student and has a fair share of experience in voluntary work abroad, so we could not have wished for a better forth team member. Unbelievably quick she became as much of an expert as our long-term members and in addition she is the one to ask when it comes to distribution strategies and market research.  

The remaining 16 volunteers will be the backoffice during the 2 months of the time abroad. They will not only keep working in the subgroups coordination, performance, distribution, instruction manual and CAD, but also they are the ones supporting our team in Tanzania with whatever they might need. The head of backoffice is Sara, who has not only been teamleader for some years now, but also has a great network throughout our own and many other local groups.  

The team introduced above has been meeting for months now in addition to our regular meetings, for discussing everything that concerns their travel. Questions like time management, budget, equipmentlist, health issues and many more were answered. But also technical concerns were talked through thoroughly.  

Another very important part of preparing the visit consisted in keeping in touch with our contacts in Tanzania. Compared to 2017 when it was only the Malage VTC in Mwanga, we now have contacts to the Kilimanjaro Childlight Foundation, the Mamtukuna Folk Development College and the community in Kidia, Old Moshi. 

All in all every single member and supporter of SoWaDi is looking forward to the next 8 weeks. We are sure that our team is unstoppable and will master every problem as the experts that we know they are.  

Hibernation of the Device

Strong and steady the cold german weather has reached our city of Darmstadt. As we do not want to cause any harm to the device we built here only a few months ago we have decided to shut it down until spring; making sure it is safe from snow, rain, wind and the freezing temperatures and also that none of the components is damaged. In addition, we would not be able to get any valuable information in these months of winter as we lack sufficient sunshine for the device to work. 

The 19th October the performance group met equipped with everything they needed at the Lichtwiese where our SoWaDi device is stationed. The water was pumped out and the different components were separated from each other to make sure their quality was maintained. In addition, the upper glass was removed. Sadly as well as the glass in Tanzania, ours had gotten a crack too.  

We are going to look at this problem closely in the next months and hopefully come up with a solution.  

The last step was to cover up the whole device. We hope this ensures a save survival of the cold german winters and gives us the chance to start working again at the Lichtwiese as soon as the first sunshine reaches us again. 

Test device the second

We proudly present: The finished plant

The SoWaDi team could only dream of a SoWaDi device in Darmstadt where long-term measurement data can be collected and change ideas can be quickly tested. Thanks to the TU Darmstadt, which kindly provided us with a place on the experimental field at campus Lichtwiese, we were able to fulfil our wish on the weekend of June 14th to June 16th (exactly one year after the last setup).

The project team met on Friday to check the previously purchased materials and to discuss the course of the weekend. On Saturday morning the construction started energetically. In order for everything to go smoothly, groups were formed in advance to take care of various parts of the system. So, the team started working parallel on the stand, the absorber box and the pipe bending. In the afternoon, pipes and aluminium sheets were joined and sprayed black. Sunday was reserved for the construction of the intermediate and upper frames as well as the final assembly.

One of the additional goals for this setup was, to examine the improved version of the instructions and test it in practice so that any further adjustments could be made. All suggestions for improvement were therefore noted diligently and evaluated in the subsequent meetings. Especially the filling of the pipe with sand and the following emptying led to problems again and raised a discussion concerning other possibilities.

Filling the pipe with sand proved to be a huge challenge.

In contrast to the previous systems, it was decided not to place the copper pipe in deep-drawn sheet metal this time, but only to place the copper pipe on the surface of the sheet metal. This is to test whether the very time-consuming deep-drawing of the sheets is worthwhile in terms of water output. In addition, a measuring technique designed by the team was attached to the system. The measurement targets include the energy input, the maximum achievable output quantity and the influence of short-term clouds on the output. In the future, verifiable predictions about possible output quantities and times should be possible.

Thanks to the 15 motivated helpers, the construction was successfully completed. Many new faces at SoWaDi were also able to get to know the device and the instructions properly for the first time and observe how the first surge of disinfected water flows from the specially built device. The setup and recording of the measurement data was very informative and opened up new work packages for our project work.

The finished system is located on the Lichtwiese campus between the buildings of the Architecture Department and the Darmstadt Climbing Centre. Interested parties are warmly invited to peer through the fence and find out more about the research project here on the homepage.

The pipe was connected to the metal sheets and placed inside the insulated absorber.
The happy team after finishing the construction