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Washing Machine

Beyond Basic Needs | Projects

  • When traveling long distances, hygiene becomes an issue for refugees. How does one wash their clothes when they walk for miles and miles every day? Women have an even greater problem; their menstrual cycles. Because of a lack of disposable solutions, many women use reusable rags that they wash, but again, they have no time or place to wash them when they are traveling. Our solution is a hand powered, lightweight and compactable washer/dryer. To wash, you add soap and enough water to fill the bottom of the outer trough (which is a tiny amount compared to a side or top load), and you turn the crank quickly. After another cycle to rinse, you simply slide the locking square into its housing, and you can wring your clothes out with massive mechanical advantage. Though there would be some residual dampness, the clothes would be much more dry than if they were hand-squeezed.

  • When traveling long distances, hygiene becomes an issue for refugees. How does one wash their clothes when they walk for miles and miles every day? Women have an even greater problem; their menstrual cycles. Because of a lack of disposable solutions, many women use reusable rags that they wash, but again, they have no time or place to wash them when they are traveling. Our solution is a hand powered, lightweight and compactable washer/dryer. To wash, you add soap and enough water to fill the bottom of the outer trough (which is a tiny amount compared to a side or top load), and you turn the crank quickly. After another cycle to rinse, you simply slide the locking square into its housing, and you can wring your clothes out with massive mechanical advantage. Though there would be some residual dampness, the clothes would be much more dry than if they were hand-squeezed.

    One of the main challenges with developing a product that is aimed at helping refugees is that it is very difficult to fund and deliver things for people who are barely supplied ample food and water. In the brainstorming part of the studio, almost every idea we came up with was followed by, “the refugees don't have the time, money, water or resources to make this product viable or even practical. Despite this we were also told to not focus of basic needs.” These will be supplied to them by aid organizations, you should make something to better their lives in transit or in the camps. Because of these challenges, we had to make something that was cheap, light, compactable for easy shipping, and over all practical. Make something that will actually help and better the lives of refugees. After all this discussion we finally came up with the washer and dryer. The only problem is again that we had to make it fit the criteria of being compatible and not use too much water. These are challenges that we had to work around throughout the duration of the project. These challenges shaped the development of our product and in the end made it better.

    The first iteration was made to illustrate our complex ideas physically. Using cardboard, we explored many of the ideas that would survive until the third and last iteration. Some of these ideas included the inner/outer bag, the rod that runs down the middle of the chamber, and the drawstring for the inner bag. While it did have the general concept of our final version, the plates were single circles, and the outer trough was a fitted sleeve. The entire machine rotated to wash, but after the first iteration we decided we wanted the plates to stationary. In this design, there was no good way of attaching the outer sleeve to the circular plates, so we added this onto the list of changes we would make in the second iteration.


    The second iteration was basically a frame of the final product. It included the outer sleeve, the ground plates and the locking plates that were designed to shape the outer sleeve and lock it in place. We changed the shape of the outer sleeve to an extruded semicircle after realizing that the water would only collect at the bottom of the sleeve. By making the sleeve a trough, we made construction more efficient and solved problems with attaching the sleeve to the plates. The third iteration added onto the second, making it into a working prototype. The rod, the ratchet/handle, the inner bag, and all of the necessary locking parts were put into place. This final iteration was by far the hardest to assemble because of the precision required to mount the mechanics. The next steps for this machine are to make a shield for the water as the machine washes, and to make a drain for the dirty water. We should also focus on making a compactable support rod and making the main rod able to compact as well.