Interactive Socio-Technical Practicum

Viability of Improved Chulhas in Himachal Pradesh

Students: Varun Bansal, IIT; Shane Bell, WPI; Trevor Gehring, WPI; Akash Kushwaha, IIT; Connor Hoeckele, WPI.
Advisors: Professor Fabio Carrera, WPI; Professor Svetlana Nikitina, WPI; Dr Atul Dhar, IIT; Dr Satvasheel Powar, IIT.

Generations of rural village inhabitants of Himachal Pradesh have used 'chulhas', a traditional cook stove, often homemade from clay and cow dung, that bums wood as fuel for cooking and heating homes. Our project investigates the viability of improved prototype chulhas in Himachal Pradesh. We tested two prototype chuhlas ourselves before asking local stakeholders to test them and provide us feedback about its design and usability. We then designed and assembled a prototype chulha, based on the feedback received from locals about the existing prototypes with our own test results. Finally, we questioned the practicality of imporved chulhas in this region based on our findings. India's increasing LPG use, and India's ongoing infrastructure development.

Project Outcomes

Because of time restraints, we recommend testing prototype 3 for several weeks. These tests can be used to produce additional prototypes that can better meet the secifications of users. Additional modifications should be made as the team sees necessary. Performing tests in the homes of villages will help expose improved chulhas to the population of northern India.

The following recommendation comes directly from feedback we received during stakeholder testing. A household recommended making a smaller prototype about half the size of all three exising models. The ideal prototype should be light, easy to move, contain one bum chamber, and cost between no more than 2000 INR. It would be best suited for workers who need to travel often. We would like to recommend further investigation about the feasibility of this idea. A major recommendation we would like to discuss is to make the body of the prototype out of traditional materials such as clay and cow dung.

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