1 February 2013

Namibia: Recycled Paper Makes Life in a Shack Easier

A tin shack, or more popularly known as a kambashu, is not the most elegant and comfortable abode. In summer it becomes unbearably hot inside, while in winter it turns into a very big refrigerator. In an effort to develop a low-cost easy-to-make insulation material to stabilise the temperature inside a shack, a group of students from the USA tackled a project in conjunction with Men on the Side of the Road, to develop insulation material from recycled paper. This project has just been awarded for innovation and excellence.

In March 2012 a group of international students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the United States worked with members of the 'Men on the Side of the Road' (MSR) project to develop a low cost insulation material made from 100% recycled paper and sawdust.

On 25 January this year, their project received the Worcester Polytechnic Institute's prestigious 'President's IQP Award.' Against a strong field of contenders who submitted their work from projects conducted all over the world, the award recognizes the student teams whose Interactive Qualifying Project has been judged outstanding in focusing on the relationships among science, technology and the needs of society. To be considered for an award, the project must be superior in conception, execution, and presentation. There are no pre-determined categories for the award, but the award recognizes the qualities for which the project excels.

For the team from WPI and their collaborators at MSR, the goal of the project was to develop a low cost, easily produced, sustainable insulation made from recycled materials to improve thermal regulation in low income shelters. The team conducted tests on fire safety, efficiency and production techniques, using waste paper and sawdust as the raw material.

This insulation creates a more comfortable environment for people living in low cost housing by making the kambashu warmer in winter and cooler in summer, while at the same time reducing the risk of fire.

The team consisting of Jon Cline, Emily Fournier, Emily Domingue, and Marco Villar were required to submit their project report, and give a presentation to a panel of judges. In Namibia, Pius Shambabi, the MSR coordinator of the project said, "I am so proud to hear that they won the President's award. They deserved the best!"

In March, the work continues with a new group from WPI arriving to help develop a prototype mould for producing the material in sheet form. More extensive field trials are also planned for this period.

Men on the Side of the Road is an organisation that aims to change the lives of unemployed people waiting on the side of the road for work, by connecting them with jobs and training opportunities. The awarded project is part of MSR's work exploring opportunities for people to become self-sustainable through small or micro enterprises.

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