Student Spotlight: SolDrop – A Social Sustainability Project


With an idea that began in a Bucky Fuller course about systems thinking, taught by Curt McNamara as part of MCAD’s Sustainable Design program, it sparked into what became the focus of my Master’s thesis project – the SolDrop solar still concept.

SolDrop is an affordable, sustainable, adaptable, and scalable water purification solution designed for the growing number of people living with contaminated water supplies. This biomimetic design is based on modular solar distillation pods, made from recycled plastic bottles and other locally available materials used to purify water at home.

The concept was developed using biomimicry methodologies and refined in the context of Biomimicry 3.8’s international 2012-13 Biomimicry Student Design Challenge (BSDC). With a small interdisciplinary team comprised of an industrial designer, graphic designers, and an engineer, we worked on prototyping and developing the plan to bring the SolDrop concept to market

As we moved forward with the idea –advancing as one of the top 10 teams from Round 1 to Round 2 of the BSDC competition– we positioned the concept for developing nations where it could have the most significant impact. We aimed to create a business model and strategy using biomimicry that would result in a robust and resilient systems design. We focused on using a human-centered design approach to refine the design idea for local materials and while engaging local communities in the development and implementation of the project.

Stay tuned for more information about the SolDrop project!

Stefanie Koehler

Stefanie Koehler is a designer of things and non-things. As a sustainability-focused human, she aims to create solutions that work to regenerate our environmental, cultural, and creative global and local economies. Trained as a product designer, she also likes to play with the art of not making things, or rather doing smart (not clever) design. Stefanie practices designing with extreme user empathy and leveraging whole systems and service design to realign innovation, business, and natural cycles. Stefanie has a traditional industrial design background (BS in Industrial Design; Western Michigan University (2009)) but has an inherent desire ‘do more good’ rather than just ‘doing less bad’. Struck by how little she knew about materials and product life cycles, she pursued a degree focused on sustainability; she graduated from MCAD with a MA in Sustainable Design in 2013. Stefanie is based in Oregon.