Engineering with Purpose

MIT’s engineers are highly sought after. For a start-up like Sanergy, finding ways to recruit them to join our team often feels like a gargantuan task.  Thanks to the support of MIT, we’ve been privileged to have several working on the Sanergy technical team.

Benji Moncivaiz has been challenged to develop the next iteration of the Sanergy model. As we think about SCALE and IMPACT, Benji has been working on cheaper ways to construct the Sanergy toilet. We thought we’d share his thoughts on this work.

Benji testing concrete

“Reducing cost is a common goal in commercial engineering.  Typical engineers might be charged to eliminate as much plastic as possible from a box handle reinforcement or figure out what factory floor arrangement is best to make production more efficient. In the end, this impacts just the company’s bottom line.

I am hungry for something different.  Using less concrete in our toilet ultimately reduces its cost, but it isn’t simply to benefit Sanergy’s bank account. Instead, it hastens local entrepreneurs’ profit-making from their Sanergy toilet, for it enables us to sell the toilet more cheaply.

This targeted impact makes thinking about such detailed problems exponentially more rewarding.  Researching, for example, the friction between specially-shaped orbs at MIT was rewarding academically, but does not compete with actually designing and implementing a foundation for plastic-bag-ridden soil that often gets flooded.

Technical questions that benefit the developing world are rewarding work for me both as an engineer and as a global citizen. Often the challenges that a community faces cannot be answered by themselves.  Their exposure to problem-solving techniques or technologies may be limited, so even an introduction to a different idea that originated across the world can spark self-improvement or rapid adoption. Technology also spurs new alliances.  I’ve seen groups with differing opinions about government policies find common ground honing in on a technical problem and attacking it together.

The technical issues still to be solved at Sanergy form a tricky bundle that will take much skilled consideration and pointed action to untangle.  The technical mishmash has thankfully entangled my heart and I will be forever grateful as I work to slowly untie the knotted tangles from within.”

  • Could you send me informaticon about the latrines Sanergy are coming up with? I am particularly interested in seeing how/if methane capture is being utilized. My employer is providing ventillation improved pit latrines for over 600 households and I would like to see if a simple modification could be utilized to capture the methane gas produced. Looking forward to a fruitful correspondance. Kind Regards, Sander van den Ende

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