After living in California through one of the worst draughts in history, I started appreciating water a lot more. I lived in a house with 7 other roommates and everyone agreed that with small changes our house could have an impact. Five-gallon buckets were placed in every shower to collect water while it warmed up to use for watering the garden. Toilet flushing was kept to the minimum, and rainwater was collected from the roof.
Yep, it was a bit of a hippy co-op but it was all for really good reason... California was running out of water. Streams and rivers were disappearing, farmers' wells were drying up and couldn't supply water for their crops and livestock. Not to mention that it's just irresponsible and embarrassing to waste so much clean water. I came to scoff at green lawns and drove my dirty, dusty car with pride.
This is why when Marshall and I were enjoying fruit smoothies at a little cafe in Ho Chi Minh, we were amused by how the glasses were just swimming in pools of condensation. Obviously, we've all probably noticed this before but for some reason - maybe it was because we were living somewhere new - we really thought about it and brainstormed on how we could put that free and effortless water to use. At first, it was just a cute idea that we chuckled at... but after a few more times of watching that puddle appear, we decided that we should really test an idea out.
Just a quick side note: when we came up with this idea, I was working part-time and had just moved to a new city so I tended to have a lot of extra time. If I had a full-time job, this project probably never would have happened. Being able to have the freedom to pursue a cool and fun idea is life changing, I hope everyone has the chance to do so if you want to. Now spoiled, I'm not sure if I'll be able to go back to that corporate 8-6 lifestyle again and hopefully I won't have to.
The first step in making this idea happen: I decided to make a model and get it 3D printed. Most DIY and makers forums recommended a free software called SketchUp. I watched some tutorials and played around for a while but I was quickly frustrated with it and realized that I could probably never be an engineer... but there had to be an easier way! Engineers are few and far between, so there must be more options geared at people with a more basic understanding of things like this. I found tinkercad.com which is free and it was prefect for my skill set... I was able to quickly model something up that seemed like it could work!
After I had my model, I checked out all the big 3D printing companies and with getting it shipped to Vietnam, it was going to cost a fortune! Instead, I looked on Facebook to find people who were offering to print things on their 3D printers. After a few messages, I found a nice surgeon who makes custom hand braces for children that agreed to print my coasters for a small fee. One week later, I had a set of coasters and bought some tiny succulents and a cactus to plant.
Next was the fun part... product testing :) read the next entry to find out more about it!
Before going any further with this crazy idea, I needed to have a reality check. Should I really be spending my time developing this? How much is it going to cost and am I OK with fronting the bill? And the bill would probably be pretty serious: hiring a professional engineer, buying injection-molding tooling, lawyer fees, and all the little expenses of starting a new business... it's going to add up quickly! As you can guess, I decided yes. This is going to be a great learning experience that I can use for my career later in life... and if I treat it like a long-term investment I'll be more likely to see it through. Even if it doesn't pay out financially, it will pay out in knowledge and as a cute blurb on my resume. Let's do it!