They travelled with other like-minded students to Cerro Verde, a 30,000 person shanty town outside Lima, Peru to investigate problems the underprivileged inhabitants were having with their water supply. The outcome? A design that has been praised around the world and is up for a number of awards – a manually powered washing machine and dryer that costs less than $40 called GiraDora.
The students are part of the Design Matters program at Art Center College of Design, which focuses on social innovation. Immediately You and Cabunoc were drawn to improving the inefficiency and problems associated with washing clothes.
Hand-washing clothes is a burden that can take up to 6 hours a day, 3-5 times a week. GiraDora, helps alleviate this
“GiraDora is the first human-powered combined washer and spin dryer designed specifically for users in the base of the pyramid,” the pair explained. “Currently, hand-washing clothes is a burden that can take up to 6 hours a day, 3-5 times a week. GiraDora, helps alleviate this burden by offering an affordable solution that increases efficiency while also combating the numerous health problems associated with hand-washing clothes.”
The idea is simple: a blue plastic tub that conceals a spinning mechanism that washes clothes and then dries them. The portable plastic tub is filled with soap, water and dirty clothes before a lid is placed on top. All the user has to do is sit on the top, pump the spring-loaded foot pedal and let the washer do its stuff. The sitting position is a much more natural posture and helps avoid the back problems caused by leaning over a bowl. The ergonomic design not only reduces chronic back pain but it is also more efficient – with the machine using less water, cleaning clothes faster and using less effort than traditional methods.
The design also alleviates a number of other health problems, including asthma, where mold on clothes from long drying times is a contributor to respiratory problems, as well as hand pain and skin damage by removing hands from the cold water during the act of washing.
“For under $40, GiraDora more than doubles productivity, increases the health of women and children, and affords the opportunity to begin breaking the poverty cycle,” the pair explained. “The user sits on top of the drum-like appliance and pumps a pedal with her foot, which agitates, cleans, rinses, then spins-dries clothes. While providing a more comfortable, ergonomic, and efficient way to clean clothes, GiraDora also affords opportunities to generate income.”
They have received awards and accolades from Dwell, Core 77, Dell Social Innovation Challenge and the International Design Excellence Awards. There was concern that GiaDora would become another forgotten student project, however Cabunoc and You pushed for investment resulting in a NCIIA E-Team grant of $19,500 which takes the project from a prototype to a long term business plan, and hopefully the implementation in a number of developing countries. Already a second round of testing is taking place in Peru and Chile.
“By 12 months we would consider GiraDora a success if we had finished a second round of field testing in Peru and had placed 50 units in slums in both Lima and Santiago for long-term testing,” they explained. “By three years, GiraDora would have established a presence in South America and validated our business plan. Building on our schools new relationship with Ashoka, GiraDora would be introduced to India. In five years it would be at least a 15% towards the ultimate goal of reaching 1 million users.”
Ironically, when a family has outgrown a GiraDora by moving up economically it would be another way to judge GiraDora’s success
“Social impact for GiraDora will be measured by both quantifiable and qualitative standards. Water and time saved by GiraDora is a quantifiable metric that can be easily tracked. These savings thereby allow opportunities in income generation and raising the living standard of a family living in poverty, a more difficult but equally important qualitative metric to track. Ironically, when a family has outgrown a GiraDora by moving up economically it would be another way to judge GiraDora’s success.”
So the hope is that GiraDora will do more than just help with washing problems and liberate families from poverty in shanty towns. In the meantime, this student journey should help inspire more budding designers to believe they can aid society through university projects.