April 25, 2008
PHOTO: Members of the award-winning UI student engineering team include (left to right): Alexandra Keenan, Aaron Gwinnup, Tom Rhoads and Joel Donham.
UI student engineering team's hand-held water sanitizer wins EPA award
A team of Iowa engineers has won national recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for developing a hand-held water sanitizer to disinfect drinking water in households of poor communities around the world.
The team of 15 students from the University of Iowa College of Engineering chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) won first place in the EPA's fourth annual People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3 Awards) competition.
The win means that the UI team will receive $75,000 to further develop its project, "Design and Testing of a Point of Use Electrolytic Chlorine Generator for Drinking Water Disinfection in Poor Countries."
The UI team was one of six winners, including teams from the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, selected from a field of 64 student groups from 56 universities. The competition encourages college students to solve environmental problems by developing sustainable, technological solutions that are environmentally friendly, efficient and economical.
Craig Just, UI associate research engineer in the College of Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and ESW advisor, said that the UI win is a great honor for all the students.
"We have some of the best students on the planet here at Iowa and winning this competition is only the beginning," he said. "We hope to multiply the $75,000 award 10-fold in the coming year so we can make a substantial human health impact in our target countries"
Team member Aaron Gwinnup of Oxford, Iowa, a sophomore UI engineering student majoring in civil and environmental engineering, said that the idea for the affordable (less than $5) device originated in a UI class, "Design for the Developing World," and is based on existing water purification technology. "We came up with a device that produces chlorine bleach from salt water. It's the same system we use in the United States, but it's miniaturized and made more affordable for poor people. So they can remove biological contaminants from the drinking water and prevent millions of needless deaths by preventable diseases such as diarrhea every year."
Just noted that the Phase II goal of the project is to further develop the hand-crank device over the next year. Eventually, the water sanitizers will be used in Mexico, Haiti and other countries with a need for inexpensive, clean, drinking water.
UI team representatives traveled April 20-22 to the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C., where they presented their design in the National Mall, with the winners announced the evening of April 22. The win is just the latest recognition garnered by the UI ESW chapter. In 2006, the UI ESW chapter was honored when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) invited Just to represent the group at an international conference at UNESCO world headquarters in Paris to help establish an international ESW organization.
ESW is a nonprofit organization with a network of more than 3,000 professionals and students working to reduce poverty and improve global sustainability. The UI chapter, composed of students and professionals, works with Rotary International District 6000, which provides local contacts in foreign lands as well as logistical and financial support. Further information about UI ESW can be found at http://www.uiesw.org.
Video of representatives of the award winners is available at http://www.epa.gov/P3/multimedia/
EDITORS: Student team members are listed alphabetically by hometown. Listings include year in school and major course of study for each student, with Iowa participants listed first and those from other states and countries following.
Dubuque: Nicole Heacock, graduate student, mechanical engineering.
Iowa City: Joel Donham, first year graduate student, urban and regional planning.
Muscatine: Ricky Teed, senior, environmental engineering.
Oxford: Aaron Gwinnup, sophomore, civil and environmental engineering/sustainable systems track.
Urbandale: Alexandra Keenan, senior, biomedical engineering.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.
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