Capstone team in Longido, Tanzania.

Capstone team in Longido, Tanzania.

An interdisciplinary group of students and professors from Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design and Sprott School of Business recently completed a site visit to Longido, Tanzania as part of their final year Capstone project. Commonly known as From Buckets to Rain Barrels, the project involves a multi-year, multi-discipline team that includes Carleton University, the Tanzanian Education and Micro-Business Organization (TEMBO) and local community leaders in Tanzania.

Led by Dr. Onita Basu (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), Professor Bjarki Hallgrimmson (School of Industrial Design) and Professor Troy Anderson (Sprott School of Business), the overall project is aimed at addressing chronic water shortage issue within the rural community of Londgido, Tanzania. This year’s focus was to develop prototypes for testing based upon the feedback that was received from the community and students involved in last year’s iteration of the project.

Having travelled to Tanzania in previous years, Dr. Basu has seen first-hand why projects like From Buckets to Rain Barrels are so important to the region.

“Traditional houses don’t have access to centralized water, nor do many of the schools in the district,” she explains. “Women and children are primarily responsible for collecting water for daily use, which is often located several kilometers away.”

After developing their prototypes over a four month period, students were given the opportunity to bring them to Tanzania for site-specific testing and feedback from members of the community. This year’s additions and enhancements to the project included a small scale solar still design, the introduction of drip irrigation as a water savings measure, improvements to brick making, a ceramic filter for water treatment, and the development of a local weather app for the community (assisted by Professor Cheryl Schramm, Department of Systems and Computer Engineering).

Students were provided the opportunity to engage with the local community in a meaningful manner and to experience daily life in the village. Activities included visiting the traditional houses (Boma Village) and schools, walking for water (a four kilometer round trip), and hiking to the one of the few year round water sources located on Longido Mountain.

Dr. Basu notes that one of the greatest challenges faced by her students was the limited selection and quality of materials.

“In Canada, we often take for granted that most materials we need are just one store or click away,” she explains. “Since we knew their projects would be used in rural Tanzania, students had to ensure that their prototypes could also be built with local materials.”

Having to work under such constraints offered a unique opportunity for students to engage in real-world learning. With an abundance of materials lacking dimensional regularity and no power tools available to be used in construction, innovative thinking became the key to solving problems. Despite the adversity, Dr. Basu feels such an experience can have a tremendously positive effect on an engineer’s growth and development.

“It’s important that tomorrow’s engineers and designer be given the opportunity to contribute in a real-world environment,” she says. “Working in a low technology setting and facing the challenges associated with finances, cultural difference and language barriers helps students discover how engineers and designers can make a difference in this world.”

While this team of fourth year students is wrapping up their respective projects, the professors, TEMBO, and local community leaders continue to work on solution implementation, with the goal of improving water resources for families in the Longido District of Tanzania. If you are interested to learn more about the project or would like to offer your support, please contact professor Basu at onita.basu@carleton.ca.