Testing 1 2 1 2 - Becky

For a while, Tom and I did not realise there was a heat wave on. We’ve been confined to the lab, testing our setup most days and are thus both still quite pale. This is because for the first time, Tom and I have been able to work full time on Blue Tap. The aim? To get field trial ready in only 5 weeks.

 Francesca keeping busy on the pre field trial trip to Uganda. 

Francesca keeping busy on the pre field trial trip to Uganda. 

Our field trial will take place in Uganda will the help of Afrinspire: our partners there. The first two weeks will be in Mbarara, working on product testing in various conditions and finding out as much as we can about our potential customers and beneficiaries. Then we’ll be heading to Kibale to check out the great work that Tearfund are doing there with rainwater harvesting. We’re also hoping to spend some time in Kampala, meeting with NGOs and water charities.

Whilst in Uganda, we really want to get to grips with people’s water habits. In the process of testing our setup, we made a data logging flow rate device using online tutorials. This device reads the flow rate from a pipe and stores it to an SD card. You can also get a real time, data stamped flow rate reading straight to your laptop! And this is the cool part: our data logging flow rate device is easy to put together with the right instructions. Following our field trial, we’re going to be releasing a simple, open source “how-to” guide so that people at home can make their own flow rate measurements. This will allow kids to track how much water is being used at a certain tap - raising awareness for water issues whilst getting kids excited about engineering with their own project!

So what’s day to day life been like working at Blue Tap? We mainly work in the lab testing our setup and making changes to the design. It’s great that we can rapidly produce new prototypes using 3D printing so our design process is really iterative. We’ve had our ups and down with the testing process; some of our valves were not air tight and were making the setup go wrong. This was a hard error to find and involved testing lots of different aspects of the test setup. Indeed, a welfare trip to the pub was required at the end of the week. But eventually finding and fixing the error was quite satisfying.

 Cheesy grins for outreach

Cheesy grins for outreach

We’ve also been out spreading the word about Blue Tap and water access issues. For example, the Cambridge University Open Day was a great way to speak to future engineers about technology for development. Indeed, we’re very grateful to the Department of Engineering at Cambridge for putting up with our endless questions and requests to “just borrow this for a few hours to see if this idea has legs”.

Tom and I have also changed our techy hats to networking hats recently at the Social Venture Creation Weekend at the Judge Business School and at the CW Unplugged conference on water technology. It’s been great to meet so many people interested in social enterprises and #tech4dev. We’re very excited to see where these inspiring startups go!

 A meme showing what Francesca's house will look like shortly, courtesy of Facebook. 

A meme showing what Francesca's house will look like shortly, courtesy of Facebook. 

Now we need to shop until we drop. We know what we need for Uganda, so Francesca is getting many, many parcels to her house full of plumbing equipment and sensors. Our malaria tablets are on their way and Tom is bulk buying sun cream because he “burns like a peach”. Watch this space for updates from Uganda!

As our internships at Blue Tap come to an end there’s a few people we need to thank. The Cambridge University Careers Service Bursary has been instrumental in Tom and I being able to afford to live in Cambridge whilst we work. For me, the Newnham Travel Grant was also necessary for me to be able to stay. So we’d like to thank the people that contribute to these for allowing us to work on our dream full time for a while. We also need to thank the lovely technicians and staff at the Dyson Centre and in the Hopkinson laboratory for their help. Stuart Scott and Fergus Riche have also given us some great advice. I’m sure Stuart will not miss us constantly trying to sneak food into the lab and getting water all over the floor.