Challenging Students To Develop a Better Water System in South Africa


While on a walking tour of the area, we identified both a design challenge and opportunity within the community. Like many dwellers of underserved townships, Kayamandi residents make several trips a day to central rainwater collection points to gather their daily water supply using buckets, bowls and other makeshift containers. Climate change and unpredictable water patterns, however, are causing a growing water crisis in South Africa, and the quality of the water varies almost hourly from pristine to polluted. So, we decided to pose a design challenge to students from Stellenbosch University to develop some innovative concepts that could be useful to the community.


Rainwater collection site in Kayamandi Township, South Africa.​

The challenge: Use Autodesk® Fusion 360™ to design a container that can house a “Water Tube” filter so people in Kayamandi can collect, store, and transport rainwater.  Students had to work with a set of design constraints, such as cost, market, analytics, durability for travel.


Students created designs according to a set of constraints.​

The design thinking process: Students worked in teams to rapidly generate 40 ideas in 20 minutes, and then brainstormed and narrowed these down to five strong ideas before zooming in on the most promising concept.


Students worked rapidly to come up with as many designs as possible.


Students then narrowed their ideas down to the ones with the most promise.

The first group of students designed a collapsible container made of recycled plastic that can be carried just like a backpack. It can be fully sealed to prevent contamination from the water source to the home, and folds up for easy storage when empty to avoid taking up precious space in small homes. The student team also envisioned making containers of various sizes to suit children, women, and men.


One student team came up with a water storage device that could be easily folded and transported.

The second team conceptualized a system that requires minimal manufacturing. It comprises of a screw top that fits the Water Tube to the top of a plastic soda bottle and a soft plastic “bladder” to hold the water.  This could be as simple as a plastic shopping bag that, when full, could be carried home in any box, crate, or backback.



Fusion 360 rendering of student design.

Our last group saw pictures of running taps at rainwater collection points within the community and decided to tackle the efficient distribution of water, instead of designing a container – they were really thinking outside the box! The two-man team conceptualized a series of valves and pipes that could be easily installed throughout the community to distribute water at the family and community level.

It was inspiring to watch students build on top of each other’s ideas, and within two short hours we had not only generated awareness of the challenges within the Kayamandi community, but also some prototypes with strong potential to make a difference.



Follow the rest of our South African journey with #AutodeskLife and the In the Fold blog.