A group of Tulane University students took home second prize in the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, totaling $30,000, one of the largest international business plan contests for social entrepreneurs. The project is lead by Jain, a graduate student in global community health at Tulane.
Jain and three other Tulane public health students founded the Humanure Power Project. They came in second place in the Dell Challenge, beating out more than 1,780 international entrants to take home the prize with their innovative plan for India.
Their goal will kill two birds with one stone: provide better sanitation in rural India as well as produce electricity that will be healthier than how many currently light their homes. The project aims to build community toilets and harness methane gas from human waste to produce the electricity.
“This is a big win for us. It legitimizes so much of what we have been working for,” says Jain. “It’s going to help us establish the critical infrastructure to start testing our system in a pilot program.”
The Humanure Power Project (HPP) team, which also includes principals Art Adhatamsoontra, Andrew Ryan and Alec Barber-Grossi, and advisors Mary Beth Luster and Emma Jasinski, worked in the spring semester with the Tulane Changemaker Institute to advance the project.
As the video below mentions, many think of bengal tigers, yoga, and the Taj Mahal. There’s an entirely different side of the country. Roughly 650 million people in India live without toilets and 400 million lack electricity. As of now, HPP plans to build 10 public toilets in a small village in Bihar to determine how much energy can be produced daily and how much the project needs to expand.
The pilot project could produce up to 200 pounds of waste, providing around 1,200 cubic feet of methane gas per day. A cubic foot can store enough battery power to light a 60-watt bulb for 6 hours, Jain said. The electricity will be distributed through reusable 12-volt batteries which will help earn money to buy my toilets and expand. The goal is sustainability. Jain wants to see this model spread across India and the rest of the world.
Jain has high hopes for this project as they gain more funding and have a greater opportunity to help those abroad. “We are trying to be the best. We believe in our project and how big an impact it will have on the lives of millions of people.”