Monday, November 20, 2006

Women´s Club in Pamplona -- part 2

I´ve spent the past several weeks designing a couple versions of a retained heat cooker (RHC) -- an inexpensive device that cooks food by retaining the heat that has been stored in the food after boiling it for a very short period of time. Essentially it´s just an insulated and sealed box or bag or basket. It takes up to twice as long to cook some foods, like beans or whole potatoes, but no fuel is consumed during the cooking process, the food can´t be burned by an inattentive cook, the kids can´t burn their hands on the pot or the fire, and the cook can leave the kitchen and go do something productive while the food is cooking.

The first RHC that I designed was for the women´s club, where they cook for 120 people every day. It´s a big plywood box in two parts, with 4 inches of styrofoam walls and a reflective plastic lining. It had to be rugged to survive daily use with pots of food weighing more than 100 pounds. Last week I installed it and trained them to use it. They´re now using it daily to cook about 40 pounds of rice. After bringing the rice to a boil for 5 minutes, they lift the pot into the RHC (luckily, it's a pot with four handles, because it takes more than two people to lift it!) They leave it for two hours, and the rice is done. At that time it´s still at 199 degrees F, so it stays nice and hot even if the rest of the meal isn´t ready for another hour or more. The women say that the rice is more evenly cooked than when they cook it over the gas stove. They proudly show off their new tool to all of the customers who come to buy their meals.

Several of the women and some of my neighbors asked me to design a smaller version for use in their homes, so I´ve built a much cheaper version from just styrofoam slabs and a plastic liner. The cost of materials is about $8, so someone could earn a living making a couple of them each day and selling them for $12 each.

Water for San Genaro -- part 3

I had another meeting with the neighbors on Wednesday and told them that SEDAPAL had approved the installation of the pilón. I brought a long two notebooks, one for recording meeting minutes and decisions and another for accounting, and told them the time had come for them to take ownership of the project and form a committee to administer it. They elected a president, treasurer, secretary and a vocal (whose only responsibility apparently is to call together the neighbors when they need to have a meeting).

They quickly put together an estimate of about $100 in materials that would be needed to bury a pipe from Fredi´s house to the control point where SEDAPAL will install the connection, about 100 meters away. Each family agreed to contribute their share for materials and to help dig the trenches on Sunday morning at 6:00 am. I arrived around 7:30 to take some pictures. By 11:00 they had finished everything except the installation of the faucet and a brick enclosure to protect it. They decided to hire an albañil (professional craftsman) to do that work. We expect that sometime this week SEDAPAL will turn on the water, and we´ll inaugurate the pilón by breaking a bottle of champagne over it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My First Publication In Peru

I´ve been taking photos and writing design documents in Spanish for all of the various devices that I´ve created (most of them adapted from other people´s inventions) so that anyone can build them. And after Sonia corrects my grammatical errors, I´m planning to publish them in a couple of places on the internet where ¨stove geeks¨ like me hang out.

Recently I noticed that one of the newspapers in Lima frequently publishes designs for wood-burning ovens and ideas for starting businesses or saving money. They even published a design for a biogas generator using guinea pig poop! So I emailed them the design for my solar water heater about a month ago. Since they never responded, I figured they weren´t interested. Then today my landlord showed me the front page of the newspaper, and there was my picture of the solar water heater on my roof! On page seven they published the steps for building it. The rest of the article (list of materials, principle of operation, suggestions for adapting the design) will be published tomorrow.