Venture Blog

June 1st, 2012
By: Kory Hansen

With much sadness we bid farewell to the students and staff of the CYEC for the last time today.  As our time in Nyeri comes to an end we must now reflect on the previous three weeks.  

Construction of our press went surprisingly once all of the materials were successfully located.  We were finished with the construction in a little over a week and began the long process of preparing the clay and pressing our filters.  Because of the additional time required to complete these tasks we were not able to make as many filters as we had hoped.  The filters we did complete did not survive the firing process fully intact.  They did however survive enough to provide preliminary testing.  Wambugu Farms is the new home the filter press we constructed.  With the miracle of modern technology, we will be able to remain in contact and exchange feedback regarding the press and new innovations made for the design.  

Tomorrow we each move on to new adventures but the relationships we have forged in East Africa are strong and sure to endure.  

From all of us we would like to say, Asante Sana! (Thank you very much) to everyone who made our Kenya trip a success and to those who supported us from back home as well.    

May 28th, 2012
By:  Kory Hansen

There has not been a lot to update as we continue to play the waiting game.  Our filters should be fired within the next 48 hours.  We cannot coat the filters with colloidal silver and begin testing until after the filters have been successfully fired.  Until then there is very little happening on the ceramic water filter issue.  

Kory and Jin Ju have continued attending meetings of self-help groups (merry-go-rounds, or ROSCAs if you prefer), collecting data for the research paper they will finish during the Fall semester.  So far it is not possible to make any definitive statements based on the data we have collected, however some clear trends are beginning to emerge.  The interviews should yield a lot of information for inclusion in the paper.

Over the weekend Kailey and Kory took the opportunity to widen their cultural understanding of religion in Kenya by attending a late morning service at HOUSE OF FAITH CHURCH in Nyeri.  It was very interesting to experience a service far more lively and energetic than we were familiar with back home.  Thankfully the service ended after only 3 hours and we did not have to endure a 6 hour service as we had been warned may happen.   

Sadly our time is coming to an end as our projects wrap up and thoughts of home become ever more prevalent.  Over these past few weeks we have grown closer to one another.  A long the way we have made a lot of friends , learned several life lessons and experienced a new culture.  Separate adventures will ensue after we depart from Nyeri on Saturday, as Amanda and Kailey depart for the emerald isle of Ireland; while Jin Ju and Kory continue their East African experience in Uganda, Tanzania and Zanzibar. 

May 25, 2012
By: Kory Hansen

Our apologies for missing an update yesterday, there were technical difficulties with our Internet access for part of the day and then we became engrossed in filter pressing and forgot to write a post.  The good news is that our filter press is functional!  Three filters have been made so far!  We are very proud of this and will continue making as many more as possible. 

 The clay we are using here, which was graciously donated by Wambugu Farms, is different from the pre-packaged commercial clay that we were accustomed to using at the Reservoir Studio back in State College.  The process for preparing this locally sourced material is more intensive.  First we had to soak the clay for two days.  Next the clay needed to be mixed with silica sand, in a 60/40 ratio.  The last steps were identical to our methods in the United States.  Which are to add in fine saw dust, which burns out during the firing process and creates the small pores, which allow the water to flow through but traps bacteria and other particles.  Once all of the steps are completed the mixture is placed in the press and out comes a formed filter. 

 The local clay also requires a longer drying time before firing than the materials used back home.  This is a crucial step because if there is too much water still in the filter when it is fired the filter will explode in the kiln and all of our work will have been for nothing.  We do not want to take any unnecessary risks.  With any luck we will have filters to fire on Monday and testing can begin Tuesday/Wednesday.  We will not have much time to collect data.  However, pending approval we may have found a local partner who will continue working with this press and send data back to us after we have returned home. 

 Now that construction is complete and the next steps are more time consuming but less labor intensive, the team has begun working more intently on secondary projects.  Amanda and Kailey took the lead on designing new receptacle features.  Kory and Jin Ju were very pleased with the new ideas and possibilities for the future.  Also, Jin Ju and Kory have had several meetings with micro-financial institutions and government Ministries as well as many self-help groups (ROSCAS).  We have been greatly helped with this research project by the staff of Taifa Sacco, who has facilitated the introduction to groups, travel logistics and translation of meetings. 


 May 23, 2012
By Jin Ju
While the clay is soaking in the water for 2 days, we are working on associated research. Today Kory and Jin Ju visited three micro finance institutes. We were able to establish a lot of great ROSCA contacts especially in the meeting with TAIFA SACCO(Savings and Credit Cooperatives). The marketing manager Mr. Ritho will help arrange a field worker to take us to 8-10  ROSCA meetings starting this friday.  After the meeting with TAIFA SACCO we visited the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Development to figure out the process of ROSCA registration.  We learned about the several requirements necessary to register.
Kailey worked on alternative designs and marketing strategies for the filter receptacle.  She came up with a great idea to create replaceable decorative wraps for the top bucket of the receptacle.  This way our customers will be able to customize and adapt the product to fit their aesthetic needs.  She also desinged a shelf or hook system that can be added to the center of the recepticle to hang/place clean glasses for easy access.
Amanda worked on her research paper and participated in an impromtu two hour Ki-Swahili and Kenyan history lesson led by Peter and Gerald, two young adults from the CYEC.
The whole team will begin pressing the filter tomorrow after getting silica sands from Wambugu farms.
May 17, 2012
By Jin Ju
Today we took a tour to the Wambugu where locals are working on energy conservation. They are improving solar water heater, solar battery charger and other device which doesn't need electricity. We were so surprised by the fact that they have impressively developed altanative electric devices such as chacole refrigirator and firing oven. Especially, we visited several kilns that we are going to fire our filter after we get the filter press done. In the afternoon, we got the 2x1 inch rectangle bars with Shuruthi and Min's help and resumed to build the slide bar. There is a minor problem with fitting the sliding riser bar  into the base frame, but it will be fixed very soon. We expect that the filter press will be completed by tomorrow.
The first water quality testing yielded positive results, indicating the presence of bateria in the water source from the river which will allow us to test effectiveness of bacterial elimination of our filters. More water quality testing is under way.
Meanwhile, Kory and Jin Ju will set up more ROSCA meetings
with Jane and Andrea in the next week.
May 16, 2012

By Kailey Perez

This morning Jin Ju and Kory headed off early to meet with Jane and discuss their indep endent research project about rotating savings and credit association (ROSCA). They learned a lot and were invited to attend the next full ROSCA meeting. After their meeting they met with Dennis who welded and finished our base and channel.  Amanda and Kailey went into Nyeri with the Solar Dryer Team to obtain materials for the filter receptacles. We reconvened at lunch and then headed to the CYEC where we ran into a design problem. Amanda discussed redesign options with fellow HESE members Siri, Shruthi, AJ, and Min. We finally decided on an option that will maximize stability, and durability of the press. While Amanda and Jin Ju finalized the design ideas and made a list of 
new materials needed, Kory and Kailey retrieved the water test from our hotel and returned to the CYEC. We found a source of water below the shamba (Swahili for garden) which will hopefully produce a positive bacteria test result so we can use it to test our filters.  (We couldn't use water from the tap at the CYEC because their water is already filtered). While Kailey prepared the water test, Kory fitted spigots to the water receptacles. Since we couldn't work on our design until we have our new materials we ended the day with a friendly soccer match with the children at the CYEC. Tomorrow we will complete the press and Kailey is currently incubating the water samples using her body heat so we expect to see the results soon.

May 15th, 2012
By Amanda Perez

This morning we chose to divide and conquer.  Kory and Amanda left for Nyeri City Center at 9:30am to procure the final materials for press construction.  We succeeded in purchasing all of the basic necessary materials for under 5000 shillings from Kariuki Hardware.  We also took some time to research available materials for potential receptacles.  Kailey and Jin Ju temporarily joined the solar dryer team to help AJ assemble the dryer's frame.  

We rendezvoused at lunch time and returned to the CYEC to begin construction on the press.  Because of the outrageous price of U-shaped steel channels, we opted instead use two Z- shaped pieces of steel to create the U shape. Dennis helped immensely by cutting all of the metal to the correct sizes. We laid out the base and bolted the Z pieces together.  Tomorrow Dennis will weld the base and the make shift U channels to the frame.  Unfortunately we found that the cobalt drill bit we traditionally use to cut steel cannot stand up to the strength of Kenyan mild steel. We will return to the city center tomorrow to buy a new drill bit and materials for the receptacles. 

May 14th, 2012
By: Kory Hansen

The team visited the CYEC for the first time of the trip.  We took a tour to learn more about the facility and its resources.  We will be assisted by two student residents of the CYEC, Dennis and Aaron.  They will be assisting with metal work and construction of the press as well as providing feedback regarding our design and to make sure it is appropriate technology for the community.  We also discussed the water testing plan in greater detail and hope to begin the process soon. Amanda ventured into the Nyeri city center to locate and price out the materials we require for construction, which brought to light potential design modifications.  We hope to have materials on-site at the CYEC tomorrow so that construction can begin.

May 13th, 2012
By: Jin Ju
Field work team of Amanda Perez, Kailey Perez, Kory Hansen, and Jin Ju Kim arrived in Nyeri. We will begin working with CYEC Monday, May 14th. Today we experienced local culture and took in the new sights, sounds and scents in Kenya while we were traveling to Nyeri from Nairobi. We understood what preservation means to this land through the people who take care of elephants orphanage(David Sheldick Wildlife Trust) and the animals at, Giraffee Manor. We ended the day by discussing the action plan for the week with HESE fellow Andrea.  
May 9th, 2012
By:  The Team

In three days we will arrive in Kenya, ready to put our hard work over the previous semester into action!  Stay tuned for frequent updates about our progress and time in Kenya!  

Here is an action plan for all we hope to accomplish during our stay:
Action plan for Kenya

Press building & redesign:

Following the comprehensive bill of materials created prior to travel and shared with HESE Fellows, Andrea and Jeff, sources for many of the materials will have been located before our arrival.   The bill of materials indicates the primary construction material of our press as, mild steel.  To complete out construction process, we will be assisted by a few local residents from the vicinity of the CYEC.  The inclusion of these local stakeholders is essential in that it fosters a sense of ownership between the project and the local community.  Engaging these folks in the project will hopefully create local champions of our project who can use their standing in the local community to promote our venture and bring additional legitimacy to our efforts.  In addition, the local workers will be very beneficial in the skills and local knowledge they bring with them.  As we have discovered many times over, no matter how we plan, we have not planed for everything.  Inevitably additional bolts, nuts, or washers will be necessary to finish our press, working with local partners will make locating replacement or additional parts and pieces, easier and faster.  One of the lessons we have learned is that some aspect of flexibility in our thinking is essential; we must be open to listening to the feedback and suggestions of our local stakeholders.

 HESE Fellow Jeff Lackey, has located two potential suppliers for the clay we will need to make our filters.  We plan to press filters using clay acquired from each source and test the resulting filter for quality control (inspection of strength and structural integrity), flow rate and post filtration water quality (to determine the level of effectiveness).  Using the collected data, a determination of which clay source best meets our needs for the filter.  Sawdust has been determined to be readily accessible from local sawmills and wood shops.  The sawdust must be “screened” to separate usable portions from larger particles, which would weaken the structure and affect filtration results.  We currently use window screening to accomplish this and should be able to find a comparable solution in Kenya.

 A kiln suitable for our needs has already been located by HESE Fellows in Kenya, which is in close proximity to the CYEC.  The kiln is located at Wambugu Farm, which is nearby the CYEC.

 Community involvement:

 A major task in Kenya will be establishing community engagement with our venture.  Partnering with local stakeholders is one method of accomplishing this.  Additionally we will be holding public displays of our venture and workshops to educate the community about the problems of water borne illness and our venture designed to find a solution.  The team will constantly be seeking feedback and response from the community in order to make sure concerns and needs of the community are fully addressed.  Kory and Jin Ju will also be conducting research on “Merry-go-round” financing solutions for micro enterprises.  This will be done through visits to ROSCA meetings and conducting interviews with participants (our goal is to attend 5 meetings and interview all members of each group).

 Metrics for the success of the project:

 First year success will be evaluated by the following benchmarks: 

 -The construction of a usable filter press using locally sourced materials.

            -The structural integrity and durability will be tested

 -Using this press a minimum of 10 filters will be pressed and fired.

            -All of the filters will be tested for quality control, water flow and water quality

-the goal will be to remove 99% of all bacteria present in the water

 -The total cost of our press and materials for the filter must not exceed $200 to be considered a success in terms of our venture.

            -a secondary metric of success is the completion of press construction in two days





January 27,2011
by The Team
Today we all sat down at the studio and discussed our action plan for the semester.  Here is a rough outline of our proposed plan:
     February will be spent acquiring the necessary information and materials needed to begin our redesign of the filter assembly to fit our overarching goal of two people, two days, two hundred dollars.  Ideally by the second week of February we will know the exact amount of force necessary to press a filter using the current mold and our mixing bowl molds.  From here we will be able to better discern the strength and weaknessesof each of our proposed designs.
    By March we will have completed our first press prototype and we will move on to the official testing and comparison phase.  This month will also be devoted to kiln work.  Our graduate student contact in the Arts will have finished his thesis defense and will be able to teach us the kiln basics. He will work with us to improvise the best method of firing while in Kenya. 
   In April we will be working with the other members of Reservoir Studio to put on a public exhibition of the press and filters.  The press testing will be concluded at this point and will conduct a kiln workshop that will mimic the set-up we intend to use in Kenya.  This wil also be the time when we hammer out the finer details of the entire production method in preparation for our trip.
Granted, this is a rough outline, but by following these guidelines, we will be more than ready to greet the challenges our trip will inevitably present us.
January 26, 2011
Kiln Notes:
by: Kory Hansen

The majority of what I have been working on in terms of appropriate kiln technology has focused upon researching fuel types, such as wood, gas, charcoal, biomass (animal dung patties/ bagasse).  Our kiln needs to fire to a minimum of 900 degrees C.  Finding an appropriate fuel capable of achieving that temperature without creating additional stress upon the environment  has been my mission.  So far using: garbage, coffee husks, and dried animal dung patties, as fuel have been ruled out. 

More work is being undertaken to determine the most appropriate design for the kiln.  There are a plethora of designs available, there are advantages and disadvantages for several, finding the best fit has not happened yet.  Possibilities to be explored are: pit style and re-purposed oil drums.

A final issue being considered in regards to kilns, is thinking about what other purpose they may serve during their "down" time; when they are not being utilized for filter production.  Possibilities include: arts and crafts projects capable of creating an additional revenue stream for small entrepreneurs, and/or storage vessels for food/drink.
Filter Notes:
by Jin Ju

I have found out a paper about the experimental result of total coliform removal efficiency and proportion of sawdust, and thickness and turbidity. It says 11.5~12.5%(by weight) of sawdust, and 1.05cm is ideal respectively. Flow rate should be considered in addition to above two elements.(PFP filter design aims for a pore size of 1 micrometer, that is expected to have a flow rate between 1-2L/H)

Please check out below tables.





With Regard to other type of ceramic filter, I have found out candle filter, use transparent PVC containers with a ceramic filter candle which contains activated coal and colloidal silver inside. The stone of the filter candle between the two PVC containers slowly absorbs the water, but the pathogens cannot enter the stone, so the filtered water is safe to drink. Although the size of filter is relatively smaller than pot filter, the fact that the filter candle needs activated coal, would be a shortcoming in spite of its little amount. We can come up with creating a simpler filter candle with alternatives.


Also, we are going to look for an avaliable metal round bowl or pan to make a new prototype of a pot filter, which doesn't need much clay and hydrauric press power, as Kory suggested.

Press Notes:
 by Amanda 
There are only 2 major presses currently in use, a standard stationary press (sometimes called the Potters for Peace (PFP) or Mani press) and a transportable short press.  Both presses are made of a solid steel frame welded or bolted together.  A 15-20 ton hydraulic jack is braced against the frame and used to press the clay between the male and femal parts of the filter mold.  The molds are made of either brushed steel, nylon, or concrete and can be attached in one of three possible combination:
1.) The male mold is bolted to the top of the frame and the female mold is mounted to a bar that slides vertically within the frame.  The jack is then placed between the base of the press and elevates the female mold to meet the male portion.
2.) The male mold is bolted to the base of the press and the female mold is mounted to a bar that slide vertically within the frame.  The jack is then placed between the top of the frame and presses the female mold down onto the male portion.
3.) The female mold is bolted to the base of the press and the male mold is mounted to a bar that slides vertically within the fram.  The jack is then placed between the top of the fram and presses the male mold down into the female portion.
Though the press has been adapted over time, many of the key parts of the frame remain unchanged.  It's important to consider alternative structural materials as well as an alternative source of force.  Steel may be the best option considering its low price and durabililty.  The biggest argument against steel is its weight and its time intensive construction.  An alternative material would need to be within the given price range and also be able to deal with the force exerted by the jack.  But what if we were to find an alternative to the jack?
Current research shows that the jack is necessary to maintain an even exertion of pressure on the clay.  It also makes filter manufacturing easier to standardize and replicate.  However,  our team believe there is a way to adjust the shape of the mold to reduce the amount of pressure necessary to mold the clay.  In doing so, we would be able to replace both the jack and the brushed steel mold we're currently using.  The replacement of these two components would greatly reduce the price of the press.
Read pages 21-34 of MIT Pure Home Water manual (link given below) for a brief summary about the construction and operation of the portable press as well as the standard "Mani" press.
Water Quality Notes (Mike):

Currently, the sawdust/clay ceramic filters made by Potters for Peace (PFP) are being tested with pores of .6-3 microns in size. These are generally over 99% efficient in removal of the relevant microbes. The smallest of these include S. typhi, at around .8 microns wide by 5 microns long, and the largest is Giardia, from 8-15 microns in size. In the middle of the range are Cryptosporidium and Cholera, all of which are efficiently removed by the current filter design and corresponding pore size. To ensure consistent pore size ideal for filtration, quality control needs to focus on getting appropriate small burnout particles, which can be done using a sieve.

Over time, particulate matter tends to build up in the filters. Scrubbing can only remove so much of this (nearly useless after about 40 uses of the filter), and eventually it slows the flow rate to almost unusable levels. A proposed solution to this might be to incorporate a cheap cloth pre-filter to catch much of the particulate debris clogging the filter, thus elongating its life at a cheap cost.

Another concern of water quality might be initial high levels of leaching of silver. The silver leaches out at relatively high levels initially, but drops and stabilizes at a low level after around 14 uses. This means that, although the levels of silver might not be toxic, to be safe it would be wise to allow a decent amount of water to run through and remove easily leachable silver ions.

November 29, 2011
            by Amanda Perez
We are proud to report that our MTR pitch for the innovative showcase won best overall pitch!  We won $500 dollars to put towards our venture and upcoming trip to Kenya this summer.  Our microbiology undergraduate student Mary Beth is currently testing the seeds of the maringa plant as a potential anti-bacterial substitute for colloidal.  If all goes well, this innovation will set us apart from all other filter methods currently in production.  The plant is more afffordable and will offer a local source opposed to the colloidal surface which must be purchased in bulk from an out of country vendor.
November 15, 2011
            by Amanda Perez
Filter Production is underway.  We now have two fully finished prototypes ready for testing.  We are also beginning to reaccess our production method to find ways to make the venture more affordable and more sustainable for our target population in Kenya.  We will try using rice bags instead of drycleaning plastic as a release agent.  Rice bags can esily be locally sourced and their improved durablility could allow for reuse, unlike the drycleaning bags that often tear after one use.
November 1, 2011
           by Amanda Perez

After hours of intense preparation our video pitch for Milking the Rhino is finally complete and can be viewed at .   In other news Joe McFetridge, one of the art education student collaborating on the project, took some fantastic pictures of the studio which will be posted shortly.  On the business end of things we have begun studying the E-Spot Canvas model and how we can incorporate it into our business model.  There is still a lot of work to be done before our upcoming business model pitch, but its compilation is already underway.  
October 25, 2011
            by Amanda Perez
The hydraulic filter press is finally in operation!  The last preparations have been made.  We mounted the metal filter mold and tested the systems winch and other functional parts.  We look forwards to our first machine pressed filter later this week.  In the meant time, with the Milking the Rhino due date drawing ever closer, we began production of our video pitch by creating a storyboard and creating the outline of the video in Imovie. In addition to using Pencil animation and Imovie,  we've also chosen to include clips from IshowU into our video.

October 18, 2011
      by Amanda Perez
This week in the studio we prepped our first filter!  Mary Beth and I experimented with the clay to sawdust ratio and concluded that a 60:40 mix resulted in the best texture.  We then wedged and hand pressed the clay into the mold.  It's currently drying in preparation for firing. On Friday, I met with Katelyn Holmes, a graduate student interested in helping with the filter project.  I brought her up to speed on the project and we began brainstorming ideas for the Milking the Rhino video competition. In preparation for creating the video I also met with a representative from the Penn State Media Commons and began to familiarize myself with Imovie and Pencil animation software.
October 12, 2011
            by Amanda Perez and Erick Seo
We presented our business pitch on Thursday to a jury of our peers and met with Khanjan on Sunday afternoon to discuss the future development of our venture pitch. We also contacted Katelyn Holmes as a potential project partner. We are hoping that her knowledge of Kenya and its water distribution systems will help us to weave a more compelling story to support our pitch. Today we met to discuss our potential partners, their expectations, and their contribution to our business venture.


October 4, 2011

            by Amanda Perez and Erick Seo
This past week we met with Richard Wukich and discussed his past and current ceramic filter projects.  He introduced us to Richard Nardo's ceramic filter business model for sustainability.  Together we did some work on the filter press to get it ready for operation in the near future.  Richard also brought a metal mold for the press which is lighter and sturdier than our current concrete mold.  After the meeting we began researching water problems in Kenya and the world at large. We then began brainstorming pitch approaches and created an outline for our powerpoint presentation.

September 27,2011
             by Amanda Perez
 Things accomplished:
    - Met with Stephen Carpenter and the other students involved in the filter project
    - Set-up studio for operations
    - Performed test runs using filters loaned from filter projects at other universities
    - Set-up Venture Website