A typical MSABI Rope Pump

“What!? You brought a 3D printer to Ifakara!?”

This was the common response that Austin and I heard when we told people that we brought our 3D-printer with us to the small town of Ifakara to kick-off the Momo pilot there. During this first visit to Ifakara, my task was to create an exterior casing and attachment mechanism for the Momo units to integrate with the rope-style pumps that our fantastic partners at MSABI had installed and maintained throughout the area, pictured here.

It was a jam-packed and exciting week! Austin and I ran tests in the field during the daytime, then used what we learned that day to redesign the Momo in the evening. Thanks to our handy 3D-printer, we were able to print out revised designs overnight, ready to be tested the next day.

During this design process, not only did we care about functionality and robustness of the Momo, we also cared deeply about the user’s experience. We knew that no matter how well our system worked, our efforts would be in vain if users did not like it on their pumps. With this in mind, we conducted field observations and initial focus groups to gauge what users think of the Momo on their pumps and how they interact with it. Here are some of the considerations that we took into account with the design:

At a focus group meeting, a MSABI staff member explains MoMo to a local community

  • Low sensor profile: We wanted to make sure people could still fit their buckets underneath the output.
  • No sharp corners: We don’t want kids banging into it and hurting themselves.
  • Blue aesthetic: The community requested this color, since it indicates water and matches the MSABI pumps.
  • Easy installation: We wanted an attachment mechanism that was “plug and play” to facilitate installation by non-technical personnel.

Interestingly, we found that people in Ifakara often chop off the top half of a plastic bottle and place it at the mouth of the pump to funnel the water, making it easier to collect. When this additional funnel is not used, a significant fraction of the water splashes outside of the user’s container and is therefore wasted. I’ve seen this same “work-around” technique in other parts of Africa and Bangladesh as well. Therefore, we wanted to make sure that the Momo unit offered this additional benefit of funneling the water, so that users would appreciate the presence of the Momo.

Throughout the week we went through several iterations using both technical and social data from the field. By the end of the week, we had ourselves a robust, aesthetically-pleasing, water-funneling Momo that users would appreciate having on their pumps!

MoMo, several iterations later