A new dorm at one of Kenya’s most prestigious high schools was making the 720 students living there sick to their stomachs.
It was emitting a horrible smell due to a poorly made sewer system that would regularly clog and leak into a stream the community goes to for fresh water, Grist reports.
This was one of two environmental issues plaguing Maseno School, the other stemming from the firewood it uses for cooking.
The smoke threatened the health of the kitchen staff, and the wood was coming from an already shrinking forest.
So five students, led by 17-year-old Leroy Mwasaru, came up with a plan to eliminate both problems.
Mwasaru told Grist,
Through a group of five, I initiated the idea that … if we harvested this waste from the 720 students and also used the organic waste that comes from the kitchen, slashing grass, and cow dung, we can come up with a viable solution.
They conceived an underground device that lets microorganisms break down this waste, which produces biogas made of methane, a natural gas with a wide range of uses.
They won the competition, the grand prize being a trip to a special camp last June where they developed a prototype under the guide of MIT students and professors.
The team attended another Innovate Kenya camp in September to present a working device and raise funds for its completion.
The students succeeded, and HWB is now in operation, supplying biogas directly to the school’s kitchen.
But the school isn’t entirely dependent on waste just yet, and Mwasaru wants to make this happen with the next version of HWB.
After the success of our second prototype, we have been hands on, working on designing a human waste bioreactor toilet that separates urine from [the] solid part, stool, since urine will lower the rate of gas production or, worse still, stall the whole process.
It will cost around $85,000 to perfect the device.
Mwasaru believes HWB will save the school over half that amount.
Biogas is proving to be a replacement for an array of precious resources, currently powering a bus that residents in England can take to and from the airport.