Reflection from our Off-Grid Toilet Research Team Member Saif
My main goal as an engineer is to use my skills to give back to my community in any way that I can, but entering Georgia Tech, I was lost as to where I would gain the skills to do that.
But, I found an organization with people sharing similar goals as myself: Engineers Without Borders Georgia Tech (EWB-GT). Within EWB-GT, I became interested in the Wish for Wash (W4W) Off-Grid Toilet Research team because of its focused interest on improving privies (toilet facilities) across the Appalachian trail. And solving an issue, no matter the size was my reason for joining. Grace Taylor and Will Skillen have been part of this group for a few semesters, and Hamzah Farooqi and I are both first-years introduced to a new type of research and development process.
All of us were ecstatic to improve the privies across the Appalachian trail falling apart due to its surroundings and hiker traffic. We built upon and reviewed research from past Off-Grid team members analyzing statements from different hikers and off-grid individuals, looking at data and design proposals, and breaking down different processes needed to develop new privies.
This type of research, while useful, was missing the hands-on component of research that we needed to make meaningful progress in the development of privies. So, Grace, Will, Hamzah, and I decided to take a trip to Helen, Georgia, and visit a composting toilet near the Hog Pen gap. Unfortunately, the toilet was run down, and the shelter in the surrounding area was also crumbling. And, we were told that the toilet and shelter we visited were of better quality than others in the area.
This may seem unfortunate, but, in a way, this is exciting. We have learned the issues we need to fix and tackle to improve the state of privies. And, with our preliminary research about privies and our hiking trip to learn more about the problem firsthand, we are ecstatic to improve the state of composting toilets and build upon our research next semester.
As Grace finishes off her involvement with W4W this semester, Hamzah, Will, and I will be focusing on tackling new issues about privies and perhaps expanding our scope on the problems we can solve.