About

Since the onset of her sophomore year, Sarah Pieslak has been tackling the challenge of dignified sanitation in Haiti in conjunction with Notre Dame Engineering2Empower. Within this project, she utilizes design-thinking, an iterative problem-solving strategy that emphasizes a deep understanding of human wants, values and needs, to ensure inclusivity and sustainability of any sanitation solutions. After discerning key design requirements from original fieldwork and conducting a technology survey, Pieslak and her advisor devised a toilet concept with an accompanying service model. Pieslak and her advisor are currently working with the Notre Dame IDEA center to optimize technical specifications and collaborating with a venture coach to commercialize the product. 

In January 2017, Pieslak traveled to Léogâne, Haiti to evaluate current toilet facilities and attitudes toward future facilities through original fieldwork using funding from a Kellogg ISP break grant. During this time, she conducted focus groups, household interviews and a local brainstorm workshop with local community partners. The synthesized insights from this data formed a body of design research for market-validated concept development. Pieslak also presented the benefits of using a human-centered approach to development challenges at the 2018 Human Development conference. Pieslak is currently in the process of applying for a Fulbright research grant in Peru to evaluate innovation ecosystems in Andean villages and propose a methodology that blends traditional problem-solving methods with elements of design-thinking.

Major
Chemical Engineering
Minor
Peace Studies
Current Research

 

Research Interests
Purpose-driven innovation, engineering for international development, design-thinking as a strategy for innovation, social entrepreneurship

Current Research
Utilizing design-thinking and human-centered design to develop an inclusive and sustainable sanitation option for families in Leogane, Haiti

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