Over 2.6 million refugees live in refugee camps that often lack adequate access to basic amenities such as food, water, and first aid. Women and girls living in refugee camps face another problem – the threat of sexual violence is all too prevalent for them, with communal toilets serving as hotbeds for sexual assault. This threat of assault only increases at night. To prevent having to relieve themselves at night, refugee women and girls sometimes abstain from eating or drinking, resulting in a negative impact on their health and livelihood.
The national runner-up in this year’s James Dyson Award sets out to solve this problem and to empower women and girls living in refugee camps.
Designed by Product Design student Anna Meddaugh, Night Loo is a portable, personal urinal that allows women and girls living in refugee camps to safely go to the bathroom at night. The petal-like flaps act as a splash guard when open, and cover the contents of the urinal when closed. After relieving herself, the user drops in a packet of pre-portioned super-absorbent polymer encased in dissolving PVA film, which turns liquid waste into an odorless powder in under a minute. The powder is then emptied through a spout that pops out of one end of the device. The urinal can also be unfolded to be flat, making it easy to clean. With Night Loo, refugee women and girls can feel safe going to the bathroom.
“Humanitarian issues have always interested me—during my undergraduate studies I learned a lot about human trafficking worldwide, and it really captivated and concerned me for some time after. Humanitarian problems are part of the reason I decided to go into product design. I thought maybe I can help address these issues. There’s got to be a design solution in there somewhere! I had actually planned on taking different classes the semester I designed Night Loo, but I saw the studio prompt (design something for displaced people) and switched my whole schedule because I very much wanted to design for people in need. It’s been my favorite project at ArtCenter – it’s been the most meaningful,” says Anna Meddaugh.
Judge Daniel K. Sodickson, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Biomedical Imaging, Principal Investigator at the Center for Advanced Imaging Innovation and Research, and Vice-Chair for Research, Department of Radiology at New York University School of Medicine, noted, “A whole-systems solution for a dramatically human challenge—and a very topical challenge right now. It felt as if Meddaugh was sitting inside the heads of the people for whom she was designing, and that speaks—in some ways—to the human element of design. It’s not just the technology; it’s really understanding for whom you are designing the technology.”
Night Loo advances to the next stage of the James Dyson Award and is in the running for the international prize of $40,000, chosen by James Dyson. The James Dyson Award is an international design competition for students of engineering or design. The competition brief is simple: design something that solves a problem, and Night Loo does just that.
Night Loo has also received Special Recognition, 2018 Denhart Family Sustainability Prize; Student Notable, Design for Social Impact, 2018 Core77 Design Awards; and was an official selection, 2018 Global Grad Show.