The Great BDL Cook Off

Our engineers spend a lot of time testing our cookstoves in the lab but seldom have the opportunity to put the stoves to use in the way the eventual owners will use them. We decided to put their cooking skills to the test with the first round of The Great Burn Design Lab Cook Off on the Jikokoa cookstove. 

“Experiences like this are important for me as I try to view the product through the lens of a customer,” Emilio Taltique, a Mechanical/Industrial Engineer at BDL, said. Human-centered design is an important part of the BDL development process, and the experience provided an opportunity to build a deeper connection to the people we work to design stoves for and reconnect to the focus on the end-user that guides BDL’s mission. 

Louisa Anderson, BDL’s Mechanical Engineering Fellow, said, “It was exciting to use a cooking stove that Burn Design Lab helped design to make a meal. Understanding user experience is fundamental to designing a stove that people want to use. From it, you learn what works well and what may need to be improved. I look forward to more opportunities to learn about stoves through user experience.”

Emilio, who started with BDL in July, reflected that “I don’t have too much experience with this type of cookstove, so it was a really insightful experience. If I’m comparing my experience to what it would have been like cooking on a three-stone fire, it was drastically better. I could have the stove up on a table, had hardly any issues with smoke, and was able to control a high and low heat.” The Jikokoa is a charcoal stove that reduces fuel consumption by more than 50% and reduces harmful emissions by more than 60% compared to traditional cooking methods like the three-stone fire.

The experience helps the BDL team understand how the stoves are used and the challenges and possibilities of preparing a meal on a charcoal stove. Emilio and Thando Martin-Weiler, BDL’s Mechanical Engineering Design Intern, partnered up to make Ghanaian Jollof Rice, while Louisa made her family’s Chana Dal recipe. Both were very well received by the judges!

“Cooking on the Jikokoa felt fairly natural, and I was able to better appreciate the finer details that go into designing and manufacturing a good stove,” Thando said of the experience. “I normally cook on an electric stove, and I liked how hands-off the Jikokoa could be at times. I really liked and appreciated the opportunity to use one of the pieces of equipment BDL helped to design and understanding how to control the fire with the dual-purpose ashtray.” The dual-purpose ashtray allows for both ash removal and airflow adjustment, easing the cooking process.

The Jikokoa represents BDL’s motivation to help families reduce indoor air pollution. With the adoption of clean cooking, around 4 million premature deaths per year can be prevented and families, particularly women and children, have the opportunity to pursue education and other activities for a better life.

Louisa's Chana Dal Recipe

Serves 3-4 

1 ½ cups red lentils
2 teaspoons turmeric
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 minced garlic clove
2-3 curry leaves
2-3 chilies with seed out
3 tablespoons mustard seed
Basmati rice

In a saucepan, rinse the lentils twice or until water is clear.

Fill saucepan with water until water is an inch above the lentils and bring to a boil.

Add the turmeric and simmer for 10 minutes. Keep extra water on hand to periodically add water to the lentils when they become too dry.

In a small saucepan, add garlic, curry leaves, chilies, mustard seed, and oil.

Place the saucepan on the heat and let the oil bubble for 20 – 30 seconds.

Add the contents to the lentils and mix them together.

Enjoy on basmati rice with yogurt and diced cilantro!

Louisa Cooking

Lira Stove Factory Project Update

It’s been a year since BDL made its first trip out to the International Lifeline Fund (ILF) stove factory in Lira, Uganda. Our mission is to enhance the factory through systems improvements and equipment installation. At the end of the project, the factory will produce 15,000 stoves per month, more than double its current output. Emilio Taltique, a BDL engineer, is spending the fall in Lira to ready the factory for the machines.

First, we needed to document the state of the factory. As one of our goals is to establish a culture of continuous improvement to enable independent problem solving, the hope was to find signs of adoptability and sustainability. The results were positive as the factory wrapped up earlier projects, cleaned out old parts, and maintained some of the methodology introduced by BDL for a productive work environment. 

The only problem was a broken fan meant to cycle air out of the paint booth, developed to isolate the painting process from the rest of the team. Without the fan, the room could not be used and the stoves had to be painted outside. The team on Vashon helped determine that the motor could be repaired, but a surge protector had to be installed before using the fan. It was a painful but important lesson as we look forward to improving the factory’s electric power infrastructure.

Other tasks for BDL include supervising new building construction, implementing additional improvements to the spray-painting process, and emphasizing building according to specifications. We’ve made significant progress already, completing the documentation of new marking templates and acquiring a regulator for compressors powering the paint spray guns.

Back on Vashon, the team is supporting the project by creating official engineering drawings of the stoves, calculating how many machines the factory needs to meet its production goals, and modifying the machines to be appropriate for their new setting.
Despite challenges, the project is on track and we look forward to completing this important factory improvement project. By working with factories we preserve jobs, capital, and knowledge, leaving communities better than when we arrived. 

Staffing Update

This summer, Burn Design Lab bid adieu to Grant and Development Officer Claire Weitnauer. Claire played a vital role in developing the communication materials of BDL and fundraising efforts and has been a valued team member since she joined in 2019. We wish Claire every success as she pursues a new path and we are so grateful for her time at BDL.

In September, BDL hired Katie McRoberts as the new Director of Communications and Development. Katie earned her BA from James Madison University in Virginia and her MA from the University of Washington. After graduating, she worked for a large church on the Eastside before moving to Berlin. In Berlin, Katie worked for a nonprofit focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and providing opportunities to advocate for peace in the Middle East. Joining Burn Design Lab and having the chance to work at the intersection of health, economic opportunity, and climate change is a dream opportunity for Katie, and she is excited to contribute to the mission and vision of BDL.

Katie Mcroberts Headshot