And the Gold Award goes to…Safe Agua Colombia Team Calientamigos at IDSA International Conference

Team Calientamigos™ had a very busy summer. The Designmatters team members Mariana Somma, Della Tosin and Safe Agua Assistant Instructor Stella Hernandez returned to Bogotá, Colombia, for another informative field research trip. Around the same time, Tianyi Sun and Kevin Chang visited Austin, Texas, to attend The Exchange, IDSA International Conference, and to accept a Gold Award for Calientamigos™. Commenting on the students’ winning project, IDSA jury member Oscar Peña, global creative director for Philips Design Lighting, described it thus: “Authentic, inventive and playful solution to an everyday need. Good understanding of the value of doing daily rituals together.”

The following three-part post was written by Mariana Somma (Grad ID student), Stella Hernandez (Environmental Design BS 11) and Kevin Chang (Product Design student), on behalf of the entire Safe Agua Colombia Calientamigos™ team.


mariana_headshot-300x300I recently had the privilege of joining the Calientamigos™ Team, which began through the Designmatters Safe Agua Colombia project. Through very tenacious last-minute efforts, I flew to Bogotá, Colombia, with teammate Della Tosin, with efforts to take with us five new Calientamigos BOMBA™ heater prototypes to the families living in the settlement of Altos del Pino (ADP), as well as check in on the first two rounds of prototypes left with the families over six months ago.  The experience was incredible, and meeting the families of ADP is one I will never forget. It was amazing to see the families using the Calientamigos™ system to heat water for bathing, cooking, cleaning, and even washing their family pets! For example, a family of 10 uses the BOMBA™ heater on a daily basis to heat bath water, saving them hours of time heating on a conventional stove, and with significant reduction in their gas bills.


Calientamigos™ has efforts to bring this product to market, with hopes to manufacture within Colombia, and to distribute globally. We were able to meet with a local incubator in Bogotá, who expressed interest in partnering with Calientamigos™ to help the families in Colombia, and ultimately make a global impact. This continues to be an exciting process as we move forward in talks around a collaborative co-business development for the coming months.


blog7-1-of-1-300x200Having the opportunity to go back to Colombia this year has been a very enriching experience. I am very happy to have traveled last week and visited again the community of Altos del Pino in Bogotá (along with the “Calientamigos™” project team members: Mariana Somma and Della Tosin), and also to have participated in a design conference talking about the work Safe Agua and Designmatters have done in the recent years.

This Safe Agua project in Colombia has been specially close to my heart since I was able to work with a group of students and teachers in my country of origin and the city where I grew up. I still remember how the landscape of the city changed for me last year during our visit and how the areas of the outskirts of the city and the communities that live there changed completely my perspective of the city creating very meaningful ties.blog3-1-of-1-200x300

Going back to the community and seeing the people we met last year and the smiles on their faces was a very special experience; even more powerful is to hear how the projects that the teams worked on are being tested and used and are already improving their lives. While the students were asking questions to the community about their experiences with the products and delivering more prototypes to other families, I was able to see and feel their happiness and their gratitude towards the team.

Two days later after the visit to the community, I was talking in front of an audience of designers at one of the most important universities in Bogotá (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) explaining what Designmatters and Safe Agua are about and how we have been able to use design to make a real social impact. The presentation, including the videos and pictures from past Safe Agua projects, had a big and positive effect on the audience, who felt very much motivated by our work in communities so close to them. I was also able to conduct a workshop, where I shared with a smaller group of 20 students and faculty members the way we work and how the close understanding of the people in the communities allows us to create more meaningful products and experiences.

blog1-1-of-1-300x200I want to pass along to all the Safe Agua teams the words of admiration that I heard at this conference because it is the work done by all the people involved in the last six years that is making a difference, not only in communities like Altos del Pino but also inspiring designers and other professionals along the way. I feel proud and happy to have participated in the beginning of Safe Agua as a student and now more recently as an assistant instructor and to have been able to see the evolution of the projects and the way that Safe Agua work is echoing in places around the world. “Gracias” to all.


kevin-changHello from IDSA’s “The Exchange” conference in Austin! A city where people will wait for hours in three-digit heat for good barbecue.

The conference kicked off with an IDSA Gold winners’ ceremony where I accepted our team’s trophy. The next three days were full of engaging lectures and workshops from design studios around the world. Robert Brunner (founder of Ammunition) shared insights into being design driven. His talk focused on how good design needs to look beyond objects to focus on a holistic experience.

We also participated in “Exchange Pods” that comprised small groups of designers around specific topics. One pod called “What They Didn’t Teach You in School,” led by a product designer at IBM, didn’t reveal any secrets that Art Center students don’t already know. The importance of time management, making time for life outside of work, and good communication skills aren’t new concepts, but it’s always good to be reminded. Afterward, we picked the brains of fellow product buddies Erick Ikeda, Jacques Perrault and Margaret Frye at the Altair booth about their experience designing running blades for Blake Leeper.

P8153984-300x225The Exchange in Austin was a great venue for connecting brilliant minds from around the world and creating dialogue around our passion for design. Throughout the conference, we met amazing designers from companies you would never expect to be doing exciting things. The experience really opened our minds to the possibilities for where our careers can go after graduation.

Calientamigos is an outcome of  Safe Agua Colombia. More information can be found on the Designmatters project page.  The project was supported through generous grants from VentureWell.
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