Category Archives: Learning

Something Cool – Lifestraw

Without clean water, many people (especially the young) had suffered from diarrhoeal diseases (especially in developing countries); contributing to approximately 1.5 million deaths every year, or 4000-6000 deaths per day due to dehydration. In addition, the contaminated water resulted in health defects such as reduced personal productive time, nausea, stomach pains and more. To make it worse, many developing countries have little health care to aid these people. child-drinking-LifeStraw-with-metal-bowl

The Lifestraw is a straw that’s capable of filtering dirty water to be drank immediately through a straw. INGENIOUS! Put into numbers: The Lifestraw is capable of filtering a maximum of 1000 litres of water, whilst removing 99.99% of bacteria, parasites, viruses and other things harmful. Lifestraw Family (a similar product) can filter out 18000 litres of water. With the use of the Lifestraw, people around the world can have access to clean drinking water; therefore causing fewer sicknesses and diminishing the deaths associated with diarrhoeal diseases.

Although the target market of the Lifestraw was to be people in developing countries, the cost of manufacturing the Lifestraw is expensive (to buy it in Canada is about $5.50. I’m unsure of how much it takes to manufacture it though). The Lifestraw is a tube of about 10 inches made from a durable plastic with a string around it for people to wear. Within the life straw contains a mesh that would filter out larger impurities, and then a polyester filter to filter out bacteria. Afterwards, the water goes though iodine-coated resin beads which kill bacteria, parasites and viruses. A carbon filter removes any taste from the iodine and absorbs the impurities of the water to be drank (refer to for more information on how it works).

In the end, I would say that the Lifestraw is possibly one of the greatest inventions ever made, as it helps people in need in developing countries while also temporarily helping in the issue of the Earth’s diminishing clean water supply. I only hope in the future that the Lifestraw can be manufactured more cheaply to be distributed all across countries with little amounts of clean water.

The Lifestraw website here:

The Eiffel Tower

It was first built in 1889 for the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution; now it’s one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world.

The design of the tower was actually based from a competition. Many architects had designed proposals for what the building would look like, but in the end the Eiffel Tower design (which was made by Alexendre-Gustave Eiffel, who was a chemical engineer) was selected. After its construction, it was to be dismantled; however due to the many protests from the civilians and tourists, it was decided that the structure was to stay. Starting from the 1900’s, the tower was used as a transmission tower once radios and televisions were widespread. Also, it was used for several scientific experiments involving temperature, pressure and more.

During the construction of the tower, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest man-made structure in the world (986 feet at the time. The height was later increased to 1052 feet because of an addition of a television antenna), and was able to stand against wind pressure of 82 PSF (at the top). During this time, people had thought that the look of the structure was unappealing; “an eyesore”. Once the structure was made, it took up 328 feet of space for each side of its square base, and weighed approximately 7300 tons.towerplan

Paradigms: The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread!

Once upon a time, man created a box-shaped camera. 100 years later, cameras are STILL BOX SHAPED: We’re stuck in a paradigm.

What are paradigms? Paradigms are defined as “A worldview underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject.” It’s like how people continue to construct things as how they used to be constructed; with little or no individuality at all. In order for humans to evolvngbbs4a1e55de53ce0e, we must break our current paradigm and invent something new, something super-cool that the world has never seen. I think this is the way of becoming successful in design.

Once a paradigm is broken, it is called a paradigm shift. Over time there have been many paradigm shifts which have greatly affected how we live today, such as the invention of the light bulb which have replaced candle, the invention of cars to provide another method of transportation or even sliced bread. In order to do a paradigm shift, one needs a lot of knowledge on the necessities and desires of humans and contain a vast imagination (to be very original). Others have tried isolating themselves from the technology and advancements we have today just so that they can think of something new; something different. Through continually shifting paradigms, humanity will be able to evolve significantly quicker and continually make up newer ways of living to increase survivability. 

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
– Marcel Proust

Green Walls

GreenWall_PatrickBlanccaixa-madridMy high school is planning on building a green wall, and my class is to design different proposals for the construction of it. In addition to the green wall, the school is going to install solar panels to generate electricity for the power grid.

A green wall is basically a wall of plants. The purpose of a green wall (environmentally) is to provide insulation for the inner walls of the school. In addition, growing more plants will increase the biodiversity (to increase the amount of bees, butterflies and more) and also rid of some carbon dioxide. Green walls can provide food for the Food and Nutrition courses in my school through growing eatable plants. The plants grown on the green wall can also absorb the rainwater to prevent the flooding of sewers. Green walls are also used to boost up aesthetic appeal.

Our job (as students) is to create a design brief for the wall, provide a bill of materials and their specifications, decide different locations for where to place the green wall, create a design to be used for the green wall (including water system, structure of wall and more), find stakeholders for the project, propose plants to be used for the wall and to provide a construction plan. My group used this neat video on YouTube to place the plants to the wall:

As I was working on this assignment, I’ve learned about the challenges and stress it takes to build an actual structure that will be staying on the school. Unlike our other school projects; this project has a specific budget, a specific area/space that the green wall will be placed on, and other limitations. While planning designs for this assignment, I felt a little restrained to what we were capable of doing. Through this “Green Wall” assignment, I have experienced a little of what it is like to be an architect and to design real structures for buildings. I can’t say I like it very much.

Solar Panels

Solar Panel Layers

Solar Panel Layers

I’m pretty sure everyone knows what solar panels are by now. They’re panels used to convert solar energy/radiation into electrical energy for use. There are many different types of solar panels; I will be explaining the most commonly used one: the crystalline silicon solar panels.

First, a solar panel contains many layers. The outer layers are made from glass or plastic to protect the other layers inside of it. It may contain UV enhancement film to increase the UV radiation intensities from the sun (for more energy). Within the glass, there are conductive layer(s)  and photovoltaic cells. Usually, the photovoltaic cells are made from silicon. The silicon contains two layers made from two other elements; one layer with too many electrons and one layer that has too little electrons.

As said before, solar panels contain a bunch of semiconductors, called photovoltaic cells or solar cells, which convert sunlight to electricity. When light particles (called photons) hit the surface of the panels, the layer with too many electrons loses some of its electrons. The loose electrons are then released as an electric current which is sent through the layer with too little electrons to an external load to store the energy. The electrons then return to the layer with too many electrons (as it’s now missing electrons) and then the process continues as the external load continues to store energy.

On average, crystalline silicon solar panels are only capable of converting 12-20% of the solar radiation to electrical energy (the first solar panels were only capable of converting 3% of solar radiation). The process of converting electrical energy is too slow and expensive, which is possibly the reason in which why solar panels are used less compared to other forms of energy generation such as Pico-Hydro and wind-turbine generators.

Legacies of Glass

This post talks about the manufacturing of glass. First, glass is made from a bunch of different things. Silicon, lime, aluminum oxide, magnesium oxide and sodium carbonate are required in the manufacturing of glass; so sand, flint, limestone, soda (which is sodium carbonate), gold, nickel and other things are added in the combination process. The method for making flat glass is called the float glass process. 

The float glass process involves having a large furnace that mixes all the materials (listed above) together into an oven that heats up to 1600 degrees Celsius. In order to colour the glass, different metals are added to the batch. Iron makes green. Manganese shows purple. There’s a lot more that are shown in this website:

The heated up mixture is placed into a tin bath (a tub of molten tin) in order to make sure that the glass can be seen through and to make sure that the glass is nice and smooth. The glass from the tin bath is removed with some rollers. The speed of the rollers will determine the thickness of the glass. After all of that, the glass is cooled, cut and then sent for manufacturing.

There’s another way of forming glass called the glassblowing method, which is used to make vases and/or bottles and many other things. It involves blowing into molten glass with a long tube to make a bubble-like shape. Some glass bottles are still made using this method; however a lot of them are mass produced using machinery sending compressed air into the bottles instead of someone blowing through them. Some bottles are plainly carved from a piece of glass.hpm_0000_0001_0_img0021

The Finished Cabin Model 2

For the site plan of the cabin, I used a large board of wood with a big piece of foam that I got from my dad from his workplace. The foam was covered with some green cloth that I found around my house. The intention of the foam was to let me pluck in small trees into the foam, as it was very difficult to glue/tape on the tiny trees. A river was made from an Aeropostal bag (as I couldn’t find anything blue to put on), and the wind-turbine generator was made from paper/Bristol board.

The following explains about how I made the insides of my model:

For the windows, I cut out small sheets of plastic and then taped them within the inner walls of the cabin with duct tape. I then covered the inner walls with white paper, which helped hide the duct tape and the cardboard. For other parts of the cabin (including the rocket stove and the bathroom) I pieced together some cardboard using a glue gun and then covered them with white paper to hide the zig-zag patterns of the cardboard. For the doors and the ladder, I used some leftover balsa wood from my classmates and then glued them on wherever I needed them. For the foundation, I used four small pieces of wood to elevate the cabin.

Here are some more pictures of the cabin:



The Finished Cabin Model

I’ve finally finished my final cabin model! The cabin turned out better than I expected. Here’s a brief summary of how the construction went:

Since I used cardboard to make the walls of my cabin, I had some problems painting it with watercolours, as the paint wasn’t very visible (I could still see the Cheerios logo in the background from where I got the box from). As a result, I decided to cover the cardboard with white paper and then paint over it. This, however, caused to the paper to get really soggy and sometimes rip, so I had to tear off the white paper. Now that I think about it; this idea could have worked a lot better if I were to just use a thicker type of paper – one used especially for water colouring, or if I used a different kind of paint, like the paint used to paint walls. Instead, I thought of a much worse idea by covering the cardboard with drywall compound to help make the paint stick on it more easily (The actual use of drywall compound is to stick sheets of drywall together like a type of plaster or mud). In the end, the drywall compound caused the cardboard walls to curve slightly once it dried. Also, it caused some of the drywall to peel off and/or crack; thus revealing the cardboard within the cabin (in which I had to fix after); although this was probably due to my limited skills in using drywall compound, as the drywall compound appeared really bumpy in texture and had an uneven coating. When I glued every piece together, the four outer walls looked better than I expected (what I expected was having large ovular gaps between each corner in which the walls were glued together; however the walls stayed together appropriately due to the strength of the glue from the glue gun). All in all, I would advise planning your steps beforehand using project management to reduce the workload to yourself and to increase efficiency while working. Here’s a document I found on Google about the basis of Project Management:

For the roof of the cabin, I also used cardboard. I cut out the pieces of the cardboard according to the measurements made on AutoCad, and then pieced them together. I then covered the roof with cut out strips of black Bristol board to make the shingles look more realistic. I then added shish-kabob skewers within the roof to act as roof trusses (I don’t have any pictures of that now, but I’ll include them in my next post).

As for what I learned about the process of model-building; I find it quite relaxing and fun to do. Looking at my final product, I feel as if though I’ve accomplished a great goal in my life. Modelling the building allowed me to gain a better  idea about what it was that I was trying to build. While constructing the cabin, I’ve discovered several problems about my design (such as having a roof that was too small to fit a rain barrel within it); hence through modelling I was able to improve my design aesthetically and structurally. In addition, I found it frustrating to work with such small pieces in the cabin; so I guess model-building also requires a lot of patience and diligence.

Here’s a picture of the cabin:

I'll be sure to take more pictures after. The angle on this one's not the best, and the flash makes it look not-as-good

I’ll be sure to take more pictures after. The angle on this one’s not the best, and the flash makes it look not-as-good

Rocket Stove to the Sky

Rocket Stoves (rocket mass heaters) are heaters; they heat the house. They’re “super efficient furnaces.”

FURNACES INFORMATION: The efficiency of furnaces is measured in AFUE, which is a number that shows the percentage in efficiency (A greater AFUE results in a greater efficiency). High efficiency furnaces range from 90 to 97%, while low efficiency furnaces range from 80Image% and less.

90-97% is already pretty efficient for a furnace, so how can rocket stoves beat that? I don’t even know. The efficiency of rocket stoves haven’t been professionally analyzed yet, so there’s not really a specific number that shows it; not in the AFUE (if someone can tell me otherwise, please do! I’ve been looking for an answer from many sites now, but I can’t seem to find a proper answer). Guaranteed however, rocket stoves are a very efficient way to heat up one’s house (efficient as in the amount of fuel – wood – put in will bring you a lot of heat, and for a long time too – which is up to 4 days).

In the picture on the right: Wood and oxygen go in on one side to be burned in the burn chamber and then transferred into the steel drum. The steel drum brings out some of the heat directly out into the house for immediate heating, while the rest of the heat is transferred through a long, airtight duct to keep the heat circulating around the house to have constant heating. The duct is usually covered with clay, mud, stone and many other materials and then covered with a ceramic spray to keep everything together. This clump of clay, mud and stone (and many more materials) that covers the duct can be used a furniture; a couch; a bed; a table; anything.

This is the only website I’ve seen so far that sells rocket mass heaters:

A rocket mass heater in real life

The Sky is Falling?

I’ve read an interesting article today, about faulty towers in Toronto. This is the link:

The article talks about a bunch of flaws in the condos being built in Toronto, including unpainted lobbies, leaky walls, cracking foundations, falling glass windows and much more. Blackouts have been warned due to the extreme electricity usage and the condos’ current electrical grid not being strong enough to handle it. It also explains things about the building documents and how they have become further generalized to prevent/reduce the chances for developers from being sued (when I say “generalized,” I mean something like taking out the numbers from a cook book). As a result, cheaper materials, including incandescent light bulbs and low efficiency boilers, can be purchased for use in the condominiums, and insulation/noise transmission may possibly be a job not-so-well-done (according to the results in the article). The building code ensures that the condominium meets at least the minimal standards; however in some of the cases in the article, the condominiums did not even follow according to the building code either. Some people who have complained about their homes have been sued, while others have stopped in fear of decreasing their condominiums’ resale values, or of being sued as well.

Toronto is the number one developer of condominiums; the city that’s building the most condominiums in the world. Despite this fact, several condominiums in Toronto have failed to suffice to proper living conditions. What I’m guessing are the main problems for the faulty condominiums in Toronto because of the labour and materials used to complete the project. With proper, experienced labour, the quality of the condominiums may have been improved greatly in that there will not be cracked foundations, leaky walls or creaky floors. With better materials being used, the condominiums may have been able to last much longer and increase the quality of life in them as well (better insulation and noise control). In addition, with higher-quality resources, the materials used in making the condominiums will last longer,  and appliances like light bulbs will be replaced with more efficient alternatives; hence also benefiting the environment.

I understand that money plays a big role in life; however people should not swindle other people’s quality of life in order to become richer.