See How This Solar Powered Ventilation System Helps People In Uganda Avoid Unhealthy Cooking Fumes

Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute in the School of Computer Science sent to two research associates to Uganda in 2018 to deliver 30 solar-powered ventilation systems that were designed to exhaust unhealthy cooking smoke from homes.

The World Health Organization says that around three billion people cook using polluting open fires or simple stoves fuelled by kerosene, biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.

Preparing to install the ventilation system.

The research associates, Josh Shapiro and Mike Taylor designed and built these systems based on an idea that emerged seven years ago as part of Toyota’s Ideas for Good marketing campaign.

Smoke-based illnesses are a major problem in developing nations because biomass frequently must be used for cooking indoors on primitive stoves. The ventilation systems are compact, consisting of a solar array the size of a tablet computer, a small fan/light assembly that hangs above the cooking area and some flexible plastic tubing to vent the smoke outside.

Why is a system like this is so important to the health and wellness of the people of Uganda?

Modern American News talked to Josh Shapiro about the initial idea of the system and its development.

Shapiro said that the idea originated from Toyota’s “Ideas for Good” ad campaign.

“People around the country were trying to think of ideas for help the world using Toyota technology, in order to win a car, and a trip to Pittsburgh in order to have their idea realized by engineers. Five ideas were chosen, including the ventilation system and after the ad campaign, Toyota gave the university capital to keep working on the projects,” said Shapiro .

Shapiro said that when they looked at the project list, they felt that the ventilation system had the chance to create the most good.

“In the Fall of 2012, we went to Uganda and Rwanda to see if air pollution due to cooking indoors was a true issue and indeed was, especially in rural areas,” said Shapiro. “In the summer of 2013, Mike and I went back to install six early prototypes. After returning, we went to Toyota for more funding, but they  had lost interest.”

After several years of no funding prospects, Shapiro re-engineered the prototype in his own time and launched a crowdsourced campaign through genercotity.com in July 2017. After months of fundraising, the team raised the funds they needed and built 30 ventilation units, and brought them to Uganda in February 2018. Shapiro said that instead of installing them himself, he trained three local men how to install/maintain/repair the units.

Modern American News: Why is a system like this is so important to the health and wellness of the people of Uganda

“In many rural areas of the developing world, including Uganda, this is an issue,” said Shapiro. “Breathing in bad air can lead to a whole slew of respiratory issues, heart decease. An important thing to note is that the fire is kept going all day long in these areas.”

“Matches are a commodity that not everyone can source, or afford, so there are people are going in and out of the kitchen all day and night to make sure it does not go out,” added Shapiro. “The person doing the cooking who is often a  woman goes in and out, but many times children help with this task, exposing them to the harmful smoke.”

Schapiro says that the 30 ventilation systems will help remove the smoke from the kitchens of the users.

“This will let them breathe cleaner air,” said Shapiro.

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