T-Minus is an annual RIT Industrial Design department-wide week-long project and competition where students from each year level collaborate on a design problem. The 2019 project briefs have been inspired in partnership with the Ugandan Water Project. I was the sophomore on my team, with Tina (a senior) and John (a junior). We were given Problem 2 - Menstrual Health:
As girls face adolescence and the beginning of their menstrual cycle, many drop out of school because of inadequate facilities at the school for feminine hygiene. The low incomes of Ugandan families make it difficult to provide the disposable menstrual products commonly found in our communities.
Ugandan girls face a monthly challenge to manage their cycle while avoiding the stigma surrounding a subject that isn't spoken of in mixed company.There is a significant need to design and implement simple, discreet facilities and tools for girls to be able to manage their personal hygiene needs.
My preliminary idea: a disposable, roll-up cotton and papyrus pad to fit in the pocket, secured with a waistband.
John's found that papyrus products (like Ancient Egyptian sandals and mats) were stiff, and would not be comfortable. My concept was not easily operable in the context of a dark latrine, especially given the student's long skirt, so we all went back to the drawing board:
We could take the product route, or develop a system to improve the context, so we split up: John tried improving the latrine's natural lighting with all weather conditions considered. Tina and I focused on fluid absorption.
- Maximize coverage and breathability. Prevent it from touching the ground while user squats over the latrine.
- Minimize maintenance needed for the product and conserve resources.
Tina made the prototype using muslin, a dog potty pad, buttons, and a cotton drawstring. I tested it under my skirt for a day and reported no discomfort, and full discreetness (I forgot I was wearing it!).
For our final presentation, I made the drawings and posters, and delivered the 1-minute oral presentation, while my teammates demonstrated the product.