Combining human focused design, with practicality, reliability, and beauty, Vēsma is a simple solution to indoor air pollution.

Over 3 billion people worldwide cook on open fires. Smoke inhalation can lead to severe respiratory and cardiac problems and birth defects such as cleft palate. Indoor cooking fires have also been linked to blindness in children. Powered by a falling weight, with the additional benefit of a USB charging portal, Vēsma’s fan unit removes smoke and other harmful particulates from enclosed spaces.

Designed at the request of a Maasai community in East Africa, the key principles behind this project are:

  • Durability and maintenance in rural contexts,
  • Intuitive and incentivised use for target households,
  • Simplicity of design for local manufacturing, distribution and repair, and,
  • Culturally aligned aesthetic integrity.

Drawing from a combined experience working and designing in cross-cultural contexts, the passion for the Vēsma team is to create a product that works and endures in a range of mud, thatch and sheet iron dwellings, and that appeals to its target audience as a functional and aesthetically pleasing addition to their homes.

Summary of the Technology

Vēsma units are powered by a falling weight connected to a gearing system that spins a fan to draw smoke and harmful pollutants out of the air. The gearing mechanism is also attached to a USB portal that is able to charge a mobile phone or other small electronic device such as a light or speaker, incentivising the user to continue lifting the weight.

Specifically adapted to homes with limited structural integrity, the current design iteration is a free-standing unit that can be placed on the ground near the fire, with a pipe to channel the smoke out of the room.

The Team

David Baulis Designer, Vēsma
David is a designer, engineer and analyst based in Australia. He has experience in biomedical engineering, machining, household product design and prototyping.

Natasha Baulis Anthropologist, Vēsma
Natasha is an anthropologist and PhD candidate in Australia. She lived and worked in East Africa for five years and has experience in project design and implementation, and scriptwriting and directing for development media.

Ryan Sutherland Community Outreach Officer, Vēsma
Public Health graduate from Yale University with expertise in sociology, environmental health and trial design.

Vlada Shevelkova Communications Officer, Vēsma
Vlada is a Public Health candidate at Downing College, University of Cambridge. She has an interest in chronic diseases and experience working within international development.

Billy Shi Support Officer, Vēsma
Engineering student at Queens’ College, Cambridge University, with experience in design engineering and business analysis.

Mitchell Moen Business Support, Vēsma

Jennifer Wronski Business Support, Vēsma
Social Innovation Student at the Judge Business School at Cambridge. Expertise in getting start-up projects off the ground as well as running large cross-functional projects.

Nandini Shiralkar Support Officer, Vēsma
Engineering student at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. Experienced in design engineering and implementing sustainability interventions within the University.

Helen Liao Business Support, Vēsma
Management Student at the Judge Business School at Cambridge.

Jacob Eldred Engineering Extern, Yale University, Vēsma