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April 23, 2014

Adventures with InVenture: PHII’s intern takes on sanitation design

Team Sanivation celebrates its victory moments after the InVenture Prize Competition ends. From left to right: Erin Cobb, Brandie Banner and Jasmine Burton. Team member Becky Byler is not pictured.

PHII is delighted to congratulate our intern, Jasmine Burton, on her recent success in the InVenture Prize Competition, sponsored by Georgia Institute of Technology. Each year, the university hosts a Shark Tank-style competition, rewarding the team of outstanding student entrepreneurs that presents the most compelling business pitch. Jasmine’s team swept the categories, taking home $25,000 total for both the 1st Place Prize and the People’s Choice Award, and also winning a free U.S. patent filing and a spot in the university’s Flashpoint accelerator program. Recognized for its innovative Safi Choo toilet design, the team is the first all-female team to win the 1st Place Prize in the history of the competition.

The Safi Choo is an innovative response to a pressing global health problem: more than 1/3 of the world’s population currently lives without access to sanitary or safe toilets. This lack of access results in corruption of safe drinking water sources, which in turn leads to preventable infections and even death from diseases like cholera. Lack of safe toilet access is also linked to troubling social problems that include an increased number of sexual assaults and a higher rate of girls dropping out of school at a young age.

The original CAD design for the Safi Choo

Jasmine and her team tackled this immense challenge by designing and prototyping a toilet they describe as “an inexpensive, mobile toilet that lowers fecal-oral contamination and reduces stress on the body while maintaining cultural practices.” The toilet separates waste for potential conversion into energy, a feature fostered by the team’s partnership with international nonprofit Sanivation, which was founded by Georgia Tech alumni. For now, the prototyped toilet is intended for use in refugee camps specifically, but the design has great potential to scale up into a variety of contexts.

Jasmine, a senior honors student at Georgia Tech majoring in industrial design, has been an intern for PHII since the beginning of the spring 2014 semester. She works primarily for the Requirements Lab, supporting its mission of advancing public health outcomes through improved information systems.

After she graduates, Jasmine plans on pursuing a Masters in Public Health with a focus on global maternal health. She hopes to one day combine her passion for transformative public health and creativity to work as a humanitarian designer—although, for now, she is focusing on the immediate future. Her team is flying to China soon to meet with a startup accelerator that is considering investing in and manufacturing the Safi Choo design. After that, her team will spend the summer in Kenya, where the four entrepreneurs will put the InVenture Prize money to work piloting the toilet design with the assistance of both their mentors at Sanivation and researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Learn more about the Safi Choo.

Piper Hale

Communications Manager