Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Faces at InStove

Ephraim Payne reporting

The new year has brought some new faces and fresh energy to InStove. We are excited about the contributions our new interns and staff member are bringing to our work building clean cookstoves and related technologies, and getting the word out about our efforts to help some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Intern Alicia Li is a current University of Oregon (UO) undergraduate, majoring in art and environmental science. She loves photography and playing tennis. We don’t know if her on-court skills will help us in the office, but Alicia’s already putting her photographer’s eye to good use revamping and updating our photo archives. We look forward to the new Vimeo and Youtube channels she is setting up for InStove.

Erik Ford is a nontraditional UO student finishing up an undergraduate degree in general social science. Erik is interested in the nonprofit culture, which makes him a natural for InStove. He’ll be splitting his internship time between our factory and the office, constructing an evaluation of our production process and reviewing our business plan. We want to congratulate Erik on his acceptance last week into the UO’s Oregon MBA program starting in the 2013 fall term, where he’ll concentrate on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Nicole Shearer graduated from the UO in June 2012 with a degree in environmental sociology and history. She has been working to expand our social media outreach and was instrumental in jumpstarting our Twitter feed.  Nicole is passionate about woman’s health, food security and environmental justice. She says she’s already learned a lot about the challenges a non-profit organization faces in the month that she has worked with us.

Our final new face, Apprentice Engineer Nick Moses joined the team during last week’s Winter Workshop, where he jumped right in to help Director of Technology Damon Ogle set up and demonstrate our water pasteurization system. That’s a good thing, because over the coming year Nick will assist Damon with the final development and testing of the pasteurizer. Nick received his Bachelor’s degree in engineering from Oregon State University, but our Duck-heavy staff won’t give him too much grief about his alma matter.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Winter Workshop: Day 4

Nicole Shearer reporting

On the final day of the Winter Workshop, things were still buzzing here at Instove, with participants continuing testing on various kinds of stoves in Aprovecho Research Center’s lab. While conversations continued over stoves and the best changes to make, the focus of the day centered on making biomass briquettes for our cookstoves. 

Workshop participants listened to our executive director, Fred Colgan, explain how biomass briquettes have been made in the past in a press fitted with a piece of PVC pipe, which molds the briquettes into a hockey puck like shape. While PVC pipe is inexpensive and easy to find, the puck-shaped briquettes burn poorly. In addition, the PVC-based briquette press relies on a hydraulic bottle jack, which is often stripped out the press for other uses, rendering the press inoperable.

Fred then explained his new concept for producing efficient-burning, rectangle briquettes on a briquette press that children, men and women will find easy to use. We construct our press with steel parts that can be found off the back of any work truck. This is important, as the presses will be cheap to manufacture and sell, as well as being less desirable to steal once they are in the field. Using this design, one could easily make 100-200 briquettes in an hour. 

Fred and workshop participants mixed up some hot water (heated by our 60 L/15 gallon stove, of course), shredded paper, partly composted grass and straw to demonstrate how to make the briquettes in the InStove press. Before burning, the briquettes need to be dried in sun, something we are a bit short of here in the Pacific Northwest during February. This was a fun task that everybody could participate in, however, and a great note to end the week off with. 

This has been a very exciting week and great learning experience for all who participated. With demonstrations like the briquette making, the premiere of the water pasteurization system and lots of great conversation solving  the problems of how we can help those in need, I would definitely say this workshop was a success. We truly enjoyed our time with everyone who participated, planned, catered or cleaned. A big thank you to you all! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Winter Workshop: Day 3

Nicole Shearer Reporting

On the third morning of the Winter Workshop here in Cottage Grove, the coffee and conversations were flowing. We started out the morning with a free-form conversation on the state of stove development and global standards for clean cookstoves. The discussion focused on production, testing, and distribution of the various kinds of cookstoves we have been testing this week. Participants also discussed market-based and philanthropic models for financing stove distribution. The group consensus was that increasing stove production is a key goal, with production dispersed around the world to be closer to end users.

After a short break, the discussion turned to a comparison of International Organization for Standardization (ISO) clean cookstove standards, the data currently coming from testing centers and in the field. With multiple people from regional testing centers in Kenya, Ghana, Honduras, and Nepal present for the workshop, the group concluded that the ISO standards are not matching up with how the stoves in testing centers and in the field. The ISO needs more feedback from the testing centers in order to be able to adjust the standards to ensure the best stoves are in the field.

Once everyone had eaten a delicious Thai lunch, catered by a local restaurant, the group assembled in Aprovecho’s testing center to conduct hands on testing of cookstoves with a variety of simple improvements. The goal of the session was to test the effectiveness of current stoves while striving to create minimal changes to increase efficiency.

The exciting reveal of the day was definitely the water pasteurization demonstration conducted by InStove co-founder Damon Ogle, who developed the system. The team pumped water from the Row River into an elevated holding tank using a bicycle-powered pump developed by Andy Pierce of Assist International in Northern California, who was present to answer questions.

The tank was connected to a water pasteurizer installed in our 100 Liter/26 Gallon stove. When heated to 78 degrees Celsius, the unit produced a stream of clean water with no pathogens. We calculated that a liter of water can be purified in about 7.6 seconds with the water pasteurization system. It was quite amazing to see, and once we complete the development and testing process, these systems will be in the field helping communities in developing areas access clean water.

With such great minds and so many varying backgrounds at the Winter Workshop, there is a definite sense of collaboration and true desire to create more efficient stoves and deliver them to those in need.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Winter Workshop: Day 2

Alicia Ly reporting

Participants greeted day two of the Winter Workshop with a buzz of anticipation, holding notebooks, laptops and steaming cups of coffee, eager to begin the day. InStove Board Member Tom Tomlinson described the room as “a gathering of people doing remarkable good around the world.”

Fred Colgan began the morning with an introduction to mud stoves. He described them as “low cost alternatives that are available now.” Following his introduction, Jon and Florence (Flip) Anderson gave an inspiring presentation about their work with mud stoves in Haiti. There, they taught locals how to build affordable stoves, made of dung and clay. This stove type produced less smoke than an open fire and reduced the amount of wood required for cooking.

The workshop group also got a glimpse of the work Mercy Corps is doing with stoves in East Timor. The presentations led to a discussion regarding the use of different materials to construct stoves. Participants examined various stove materials, and analyzed their effectiveness and affordability.

After a delicious lunch at a local Mexican food restaurant, the group visited the InStove factory. They received a brief tour and introduction to the production process and our “Stove-Factory-In-A-Box” methodology to establish in-country assembly.

After the tour, workshop participants returned to InStove headquarters to “learn with their hands,” as Flip described it, guiding participants with her partner Jon in building a mud stove. 

Later, InStove Board Member Ben Jacobs of the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry Co. (WAFCO) demonstrated WAFCO’s autoclave application, which, when used in our 60 Liter/15 Gallon stove, can sterilize medical equipment and medical waste in the field.

Throughout the day, participants mingled and discussed various stove projects around the world. Everybody seemed to be passionate about his or her work and inspired by one another. And, everyone agreed with Fred: for many communities, “stoves are their livelihood.” 

Tomorrow everyone is excited to see InStove’s Director of Technology Damon Ogle demonstrate the new water pasteurizer he invented, which is undergoing final development and testing.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Winter Workshop: Day 1

Adam Creighton reporting

Monday morning, InStove, in collaboration with Aprovecho Research Center (ARC), kicked off our Winter Workshop: a 4-day immersion in the hot, fascinating and sometimes dirty world of clean cookstoves. Over a dozen participants from around the world from aid, education and nonprofit service sectors began Monday morning with an introduction to each other. Dean Still of ARC and Dr. Larry Winiarski – inventor of the Rocket Stove, the original high-efficiency cookstove – presented a history of the clean cookstove movement.

Following the introduction and a brief coffee break, guests were treated to a hands-on tour of the facilities, and a catered lunch break at 12:00. University students from Honduras and Oregon mingled with guests from Germany, Nepal and Ghana, learning more about each other and how clean cooking technology touches public health and safety, nutrition, climate change, social justice and human rights.

After lunch, two groups divided, with one staying inside to work with ARC’s Laboratory Emissions Measurement System (LEMS). The second group, including Dr. Nathan Kemalyan, Medical Director of the Oregon Burn Center at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, went outside to learn controlled field testing procedures. A long-standing interest in burn prevention brought Dr. Kemalyan to this year's Winter Workshop.

"I was invited to participate in an education team in rural Zambia," said Dr. Kemalyan. "I got there to a very rural place with a hospital full of burned children and women, most of whom had been burned in the vicinity of a cook fire. I don't believe I encountered any clean cookstoves on that trip, and I got to thinking about how they got burned and what they could have done to prevent it."

"It was pretty obvious from my trip that women spent a lot of time gathering wood," added Dr. Kemalyan, "so the idea of a clean cookstove seemed like a no brainer. That's why I'm here: to learn about clean cookstoves in general and how the community can grasp this concept."

Alongside a quorum of the InStove board of Directors, Dr. Kemalyan ran field-style experiments to measure how much more efficient the rocket stove and our 60 Liter/15 Gallon stove are when compared to a three-stone fire in terms of time to boil, and fuel consumed.

Attendees turned scientists gathered around their fires and traded stories and jibes while taking surreptitious measurements amidst the steam and smoke of a cold, February afternoon in Oregon.

"Steve [Kerpen] was trying to steal our wood," joked Tom Tomlinson, "This is a very competitive board of directors."

"Make fire, heat water," added Corrine Tomlinson.

With their own experiments, participants again and again confirmed the superiority of InStove's 60 Liter/15 Gallon stove over the traditional 3-stone fires still commonly used around the world. Results comparing the ARC Eco-tech stove to the 3-stone fire were more ambiguous.

Tuesday's events will include a discussion on low cost stoves, fieldwork and insights gained and, after lunch, continue with demonstrations of how to make cheap mud stoves and use the 60 liter stove, autoclave and pressure cooker.