Blog 4: Integrated Design Process, Circle of Life

1. Based on your life experiences, skills, and interests, what would a design process that is both uniquely yours and effective look like?

  1. Empathize: People are exposed to an existing issue or system that brings them dissatisfaction or empathy towards the situation. People involved start to build up a desire and passion to take action in order to make an impactful change on the existing system in hopes of a better situation.
  2. Explore: People investigate the current issue in-depth to see the big picture. People gain an understanding of the five Ws & H(who, what,  when, where, why, and how) towards the situation.
  3. Define: People pinpoint and clearly define the problem that resulted in the existence of the current situation.
  4. Ideate/Research: Develop initial ideas to combat the problem. Conduct research to determine whether or not similar problems exist(ed) in other areas and determine whether an existing solution has been applied. Develop a finalized solution to tackle the problem with initial ideas and information gathered from research.
  5. Prototype: Develop a prototype of the solution. Document and take note of any issue that arises from the production process.
  6. Test: Conduct a trail of the solution in a small scale setting. Get the community involved in the trial for feedbacks. Make adjustments and changes according to the feedback. Repeat steps five and six as needed.
  7. Implementation: Implement the solution at full scale. Make minor adjustments as needed.
  8. Feedback: Generate feedback from the community on the solution implemented. Look for improvement opportunities on the solution that was implemented. Communicate problems and solutions online for other communities to reference.


Identify your three most important stakeholders and list five UNIQUE attributes for each one of them.

1. Entrepreneurs/Junk Shop

  • Demographics: Filipino, small business owners
  • Socio-Economics: Lower class and low-income members of society
  • Geographic: Philippines. Climate conditions are rainy and windy. manila consists of 1.78 million people.
  • Psychological Variable: Business owner sees value and business opportunity in the trash that is generated.
  • Behavioral: Business owners participate in dumpster diving or buys valuable trash from other Filipino.

2. Nanays

  • Demographic: Middle-age married Filipino
  • Socio-Economic: Nanays are often unemployed and a part of the lower-income class.
  • Geographic: Philippines. Climate is rainy and windy. Manila is composed of 1.78 million people.
  • Psychological Variables: Middle-age women who have fulfilled their parental roles and are seeking employment to improve their quality of life.
  • Behavioral: Nanays live on sachets sized household goods due to low or no income.

3. NGOs

  • Demographics: Filipinos of all occupations
  • Socio-Economic: People from all classes and income level are a part of the NGO
  • Geographic: Philippines. Climates are rainy and windy. Currently 1.78 million people live in Manila.
  • Psychological Variables: People band together in pursuit of achieving a common goal such as deviating plastic from the environment.
  • Behavioral: NGO members are reducing and reusing plastic in their day-to-day life

3. Identify three ways in which you will validate your project concept, technology, usability, and business model.

  1. Conduct experimentation to determine the allowable contamination level in recycled plastics for building blocks. This investigation is crucial to ensure that infrastructures created from our building blocks do not collapse. It also determines the maximum level of contamination we can have in each block.
  2. Determine whether or not the junk shop business and market are willing to invest in our injection molding machinery for the production of recycled plastic products through research.
  3. Create prototypes of building blocks to test how they fasten with each other and whether or not they are secure and sturdy. The plastic’s flexible properties need to be considered in this process.

4. Give three examples of something very interesting you earned from a friend that was a completely alien concept to you.

  1. Hydropower is not renewable and can sometimes be dirtier than fossil fuel. Water released slowly from the dam leaves at high pressure and causes the turbines to turn. Over time, the opening for the waterway will eventually be covered by sediments and fail to operate. Removing the sediments is so costly that it is oftentimes not worth prolonging the life span of the hydropower facility. In addition, shallow dams allow the sun to react with the sediments which initiate methane production. Some locations produce so much methane that the facility is no longer producing clean energy.
  2. Currently, we are living on 10 species of bananas due to the massive cloning process.
  3. Most blue organisms in nature are actually not blue. Rather, the blue comes from the microstructure on the species body that causes the light reflection to appear blue. As a result, people think they see blue.

Blog 3: Theory of Change

  1. List the top 20 questions your team needs to answer to advance the venture forward. Categorize the questions if necessary.
    1. Why are we working on impacting other people’s lives through Plastikan?
    2. How do Filipinos want us involved in their plastic problem?
    3. What qualifications do we need in order to create an impact?
    4. What do we need to learn in order to make an impact?
    5. How do we apply what we learned to help others?
    6. Who else should we involve in making an impact through Plastikan?
    7. How will we know if we are successful?
    8. When do we know to stop our involvement?
    9. How might we spread knowledge on recycling waste to others?
    10. What is our timeline?
    11. How do we sustain the impact?
    12. What challenges/struggles will we have to tackle?
    13. How do we combat the challenges/struggles that come in our way?
    14. What exactly is the problem we are trying to solve in order to make an impact on Filipinos?
    15. What level of scale are we trying to achieve through Plastikan?
    16. How much effort and work are we willing to put into the project?
    17. What is the first step?
    18. What kind of impact are we trying to make through Plastikan?
    19. What kind of impact are we aiming for?
    20. Why should the we sustain the impact?
  2. Develop and Visualize the Theory of Change (Logic Model) for your venture.
Inputs Outputs Outcomes
  • Time
  • Skill
  • Experience
  • Knowledge
  • Research
  • Machinery
  • Pounds of plastic diverted
  • Number of plastic products made from recycled plastics
  • Decrease unemployment rate
  • Decrease the number of people living in the slums
  • Eliminate plastic pollution in the oceans and landfills
  • Generate reliable and self-sustaining income opportunity for the poor
  • Boost the economy


Blog 2: Culture

Hi guys! Welcome back to my blog!

Today I will be focusing on cultural aspects in regards to the PlasTech Venture project.

1. Give three compelling examples of how cultural issues affect your project?

First, Filipinos have a culture of purchasing everyday household essentials that are in the form of sachets. Sachets are single-use packages that contain a small amount of commercial good that is usually used up moments after opening the package(e.g. ketchup packages from McDonald). Many commercial stores in the US use sachets as a means of providing free samples for customers to try. A large majority of Filipinos live in poverty and do not have the money to make a down payment for the bulk quantity in order to feed their family. The heavy reliance on sachets poses a huge threat to our recycling efforts because sachets are hard to recycle. The combination of metal and plastic in sachets makes it extremely difficult to separate both materials to be recycled.

Second, Filipinos have a cultural preference for using virgin plastic over-processed plastic. Filipinos have a greater trust towards newly created plastic over old plastic. With our current technologies, creating virgin plastic is also cheaper. As a result, businesses are more interested in new plastic. The preference of new plastic over recycled plastic poses the issue of creating more non-degradable plastic waste in the environment. 

Third, the difference in culture between America and the Philippines will affect the PlasTech project. The PlasTech Venture is tasked with creating a “value-added” product made out of recycled material. A value-added product for Americans may not be valuable to Filipinos. Identifying and understanding the cultural difference is crucial.


2. Have you experienced or observed any of these social situations at home? Describe at least three such situations.

The US does not have as big of a recycling issue regarding sachets. Americans typically purchase everyday essential products in the form of large plastic bottles that can last for 2 months or more. These bottles also come in the form of plastic, which makes recycling much easier compared to sachets. Unfortunately, the US does experience some issues with recycling sachet due to food take outs, traveling, and providing samples to consumers. Similarly, Americans also have a preference for new plastic over recycled plastics due to cost efficiency. However, there is a growing movement in the US where using recycled material in products is becoming a way of marketing and attracting customers. Some containers that store snacks promote the fact that their containers are made from recycled materials. A difference in culture between the US and the Philippines can be seen in the habit of recycling aluminum cans. The US has an advantage in the sense that the government’s policy of returning five cents per aluminum can provide an incentive to recycle. Unlike the US, the Philippines ’ government is not providing incentives towards recycling which makes recycling much more challenging.


3. Give three examples of cultural practices that can be leveraged to address community/market problems.

One cultural practice that can be leveraged to address community/market problem is introducing the concept of no/minimal packaging. Customers would simply go fill up the essential everyday product in a jar they bring from home and get charged by how much the content inside the jar weighs. This concept eliminates a large amount of plastic that enters the environment and also helps businesses save money from not having to produce the plastic. Such a system is extremely hard to implement because it requires a cultural change. A downside to this system is the risk of vendors selling fake products to consumers since the goods would no longer be in an air-sealed container. 

Another cultural practice that can be implemented is providing the Philippines some sort of incentive to collect plastic. This can be in the form of trading something of value for plastics that are turned in. For example, if someone cashed in ten ponds of plastic, the junk shop would provide a building material such as a beam made out of plastic. This system keeps plastics from entering the landfill and recycles the plastic at the same time. If another plastic object is undesirable, the junk shop can eve offer coupons to other stores. Coupon marketing would become another market that PlasTech could tap into. 

A third cultural practice that can be implemented is to create and sell products that Filipinos would eventually bond with and not throw away. A good example of such products is plates and bowls. Plates and bowls are meant to be utilized for a long period of time. During the time it stays in a home, there are many bonding opportunities between the owner and the dishwares. Through this cultural practice, hopefully, the owner will come to value the dishware and change their perception of plastics. In the best-case scenario, the amount of plastic that would end up in the landfill would decrease due to the changed perception of the plastic’s worth.


Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you next week 🙂

Blog 1: Why GSIF?

Hello All!

My name is Susan Cheng. I am a junior mechanical engineering major who aspires to redesign the way people live and the products they use to be more sustainable and environmentally-friendly. I really look forward to making “IMPACT, IMPACT, IMPACT” with the PlasTech Venture team this year! 

So…what led me to GSIF and the PlasTech Venture team?

Upon entering college, I knew I wanted to involve the concepts of sustainability and environmental-friendliness in my career. I yearn to be an undercover stage crew that sets up the world population to coexist with nature and operate in a more self-sustaining manner. I started to work towards my goal at Lehigh through studying mechanical engineering. The more I learned about the mechanical engineering field, the more hope and despair I gained. Through mechanical engineering, I became aware of the massive potential of achieving my goal. At the same time, I learned that most mechanical engineering jobs in the market deviated from my goals. Upon learning about the various programs being offered by GSIF, I was enchanted by the PlasTech project because it aligned with my career goal and welcomed my mechanical engineering spirit. 

Being a part of the GSIF PlasTec team is a step towards my career aspiration in redesigning the way people live to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly. As a part of the GSIF program, I look forward to learning and developing various skills from the Inquiry to Impact Workshop Series to make sustainable changes in not just the Philippines via the PlasTech project but to other parts of the world as well. Through the workshop, I look forward to learning about current challenges that the world is facing as a means of inspiration to focus in my mechanical engineering classes in order to make the difference that I am seeking in the world. 

Issues such as the following are waiting to be solved:

“The World Health Organization estimates that over one billion people who need eyeglasses do not have access to them. The vast majority of these people live in developing countries like Kenya where there is barely one optometrist per one million people. Given the high poverty levels, access to eyeglasses is almost nonexistent. Lack of proper eyeglasses severely impacts people and their livelihoods by decreasing their productivity at work, limiting or eliminating new opportunities, affecting their quality of life, deteriorating their general health and possibly leading to (preventable) blindness. What solution do you propose to address this problem?”

To solve the issue above, I would first establish an eyeglasses donation system in developed countries. Whenever an ophthalmologist provides a new prescription for the patient, the old lens and frame will be donated to the developing nation. According to the Vision Council of America, 64% of the population (209.4 million people in 2018) wear eyeglasses. Eyeglasses prescription usually lasts one to two years, this indicates that the US alone discards or no longer uses 109.2 million pairs of eyeglasses every year. This massive number of discarded eyeglasses brings hope to developing countries such as Kenya, where the population is 49.7 million as of 2017. 

Donated glasses can then be shipped to the developing countries in need of eyeglasses. A new market of fixing and adjusting the donated eyeglasses (opticians) can be introduced to the developing countries, which could potentially enhance economic growth. 

Furthermore, financial support from international organizations such as the TwoBillionEyes Foundation and the developing country’s government can lead to bringing basic eye examination care to the people. The examination would determine the right prescription for each individual. The only cost remaining from the described operation would be the optician’s fee for adjusting the donated eyeglasses. 

There are many other innovative ways of addressing the lack of proper eyeglasses in developing countries. The approach that I have mentioned is definitely not the perfect solution and consists of various issues that need to be explored. A few of these issues are listed below: 

  • How will the donation system in developed countries be set up?
  • Who will distribute and cover the cost of transporting the discarded eyeglasses?
  • Where and how will individuals in the developing countries be trained to be opticians? 
  • What options exist for individuals who are in need of further eye care after the expiration of the prescription?

Through the Inquiry to Impact Workshop Series, I hope to gain more insights and skills in tackling any challenges that are thrown at me. My goal of developing and redesigning the way people live and the things they use to be more sustainable and environmentally-friendly is definitely a thorny path with hurdles. 

See you next time 🙂