Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Competition Year: 2015

Shrink-wrap crap to provide affordable, feasible in-home toilets for low-income households

Water and Sanitation

  • Team Members
  • J. Press-Williams
  • D. Yousef

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Our Pitch

change:WATER wants to solve two coincident problems: widespread gender-based violence accruing related to the lack of toilets in poor communities; and exploding sewage accumulations in urban slums lacking proper sanitation infrastructure. Our solution will tackle both problems, by providing low-cost, waterless in-home toilets that (a) afford low-income females a safe, private sanitation option and (b) shrink daily sewage down to 1% of produced volumes.

Chronic government under-investment into sanitation infrastructure means slum-dwellers live with their sewage--there is no piping to “flush” the sewage away. The problem will only get worse, with rapid developing world urbanization outpacing government infrastructure build-out.

Globally, 2.5Bn people lack access to safe toilets, with 1Bn of those defecating out in the open. As a result, the poor suffer from high incidences of fecally-induced disease.


Who We Are

Brendan Smith is currently a doctoral candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. His research focuses on the synthesis and characterization of novel nanoporous desalination membranes, which enable enhanced energy efficiency desalination. He is also passionate about developing sustainable water treatment solutions for the developing world.

Jessie Press-Williams is a junior in Mechanical Engineering at MIT. She traveled to Zambia through D-Lab and worked on designing low-cost charcoal cook-stoves and charcoal kilns, and she was a CITE-PSC intern in Indonesia where she conducted an evaluation of tofu and tempeh cooking technologies. She hopes to make a difference in the developing world, and expand access to clean water and safe sanitation.

Grace Connors is a junior studying Mechanical Engineering at MIT. She has worked with startups in the developing world including interning for MoringaConnect, a crowdsourcing moringa oil retailer empowering farmers in Ghana to grow a commercial crop, and working in the Heat and Transfer Lab at MIT on a membrane distillation project, which can desalinate water through a heat transfer system. Her experience with the developing world and water has sparked her interest in this project.

Diana Yousef, PhD, MBA, MA is a serial entrepreneur with 10+yrs experience commercializing technology for social and environmental impact in the developing world. Leveraging her diverse experiences (McKinsey consulting, IFC/World Bank, United Nations, venture investing/creation with Battelle Ventures, Fraunhofer Center for Clean Energy Systems), she has envisioned and implemented a number of innovative strategies to commercialize technologies for social impact. She is also a co-Founder of WeCyclers (MIT-spin out to build recyclables supply chains in Nigeria), Immerse Global (Stanford-spin out to develop atmospheric water capture technologies), and SachSiSolar (MIT-spin out to develop revolutionary new materials to low the cost of solar production). She holds a PhD in Biochemistry, MBA in Finance, MA in International Development.

Gaurav Kewlani, PhD, completed his doctoral research in energy science and engineering from MIT, with minors in product design, internatioal development and social entrepreneurship. Leveraging his work at MIT CITE with USAID, he is developing our methodologies to evaluate the feasibility of our technology for resource-constrained communities.

Gus Souki, MBA, is a serial water entrepreneur who launched Epiphany Solar Water Systems to treat produced water from fracking via solar-powered treatment. He also built’s business units in emerging markets. He hails from Lebanon and has extensive connections in the Middle East who are interested to invest in water recovery and treatment technologies.

Renata Bakousseva is pursing joint MBA, MS Systems Engineering within MIT’s LGO program. Her systems and operations expertise are invaluable to our on-the-ground implementation efforts and development of our business model.

Khalil Ramadi holds an MSc in Mechanical Engineering and is pursuing his PhD in the Harvard-MIT HST division. His crossover expertise in biology and engineering are being leverage as we explore how this material interacts with organic and biological waste. He has extensive experience with research, design, development, and testing of novel technologies, as well as with the biocompatibility of synthetic materials.

Pierre Dennery is a Sloan MSMS Candidate at Sloan, doing his thesis on renewable energies. Prior to MIT, he worked at BCG as an associate. He also worked with Father Ceyrac Children Trust to build individual houses for Dalit people in Tamil Nadu. He also will lead our market analysis efforts that will inform our user-centric design of the toilets.

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