andean solar cooker project (d-lab: energy)

Context

D-Lab is a department at MIT that focuses on designing and disseminating technologies that improve the lives of people living in poverty. I took D-Lab: Energy and our goal was to create an alternative solution for Peruvian communities in the Andes that depend on using bosta, or dried dung, for cooking and heat fuel. 

Approach

I spent a week living among the locals in Quehue, conducting user interviews, learning about the cooking style and gathering solar data of the region. The project was organized in partnership with UTEC. I worked with several other students who helped translate interview questions and answer questions about Peruvian culture. After the trip, I returned to MIT to distill the interview information and decide on a project direction.

 We researched and brainstormed many different types of solar cookers, including box cookers, parabolic cookers, panel cookers, etc. With the constraints of cost, available solar energy, manufacturability, robustness, and availability of materials, we created a Pugh chart and eventually settled on a simple box cooker. Our final design would be built from adobe, ichu (local insulating grass), glass, and sheet metal.

Photos from my trip can be seen here.

Skills practiced

Ethnographic research, user centered design, prototyping, resource analysis

Results

Due to the timeline of the course, we were only able to build two prototypes. This project was done in partnership with UTEC, a technology university in Lima. We sent the instructions on building the next prototype to our group mates there, and are hoping to find an opportunity to test the solar cooker in field in the future.