By Erica Sesay and Jan Marie Revers
A Kingston University MA design student has reassembled a tricycle to make a portable shower for Chinese migrant workers who lack washing facilities.

Design student invents portable shower for Chinese migrant workers

Chen Ying Gao, 27, created a rickshaw-shower with a cubicle made from wood mounted on the back of a tricycle.

She said: “I saw some news on the internet. It was talking about workers washing on the roofs of buildings and it was just from there I started thinking about focusing on that part of the population and doing a design for them.”

Hot water

The idea is that the Rickshaw Shower would move from place to place on the tricycle. One migrant worker could then vist many construction sites to offer the service to colleagues. She explained that the mobile device could be connected to a stand pipe. Users would carry their own flask of hot water which would be mixed with the cold water from the mains pipe through a valve.

“The water temperature can be controlled by increasing or decreasing the flow from the cold water pipe. It means you can have a nice warm shower without using electricity or gas.” Said Chen Ying.

Before coming to study in the UK, Chen Ying, who was studying architecture, saw how migrant workers in her come city of Beijing lived and worked. After deciding to base her master project on the workers, she took a trip home for a closer look at their daily lives.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said, “because most of them came from a long way away, from the far north of China or the south. Some were surprised I wanted to talk to them and some of them really didn’t want to tell me their stories.”

Hard work

“They get up very early, they do a lot of hard work and they have very little rest. But it’s a strange thing, if you bring up the topic they might talk about how they are dissatisfied with their lives but if you ask them generally about life they don’t seem unhappy or sad.”

In the past 30 years, an estimated 145 million rural people have moved into China’s main cities to work in factories or on building sites and there is currently 3.6 million migrant workers in Beijing.

Alongside other KU students, her design was displayed at the Tent 2011 show in London.

“A guy said to me: ‘I quite like this thing it might be used in some festivals here if the people might need to take a shower in a public place, it will be a really easy and cheap way to take a shower,'” she said.

Course director of MA Design: Product and Space, Colin Holden said: “This mobile service also provides an alternative employment possibility. I hope she takes it to the next level back home in Beijing – it’s a project with life beyond the duration of the MA.”

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