At the NAE competition (l to r): Business Development Lead Anjli Patel; broadcast journalist Miles O'Brien, who presented the award; and Project Co-Lead Kim Parker
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about this project
Engineers Without Borders’ award-winning Guatemala Water Project garnered two more national awards this month, placing first in a student design competition at the National Academy of Engineers’ (NAE) Grand Challenges Summit in Los Angeles, held Oct. 6-8, and coming in second in the Water Environment Federation Student Design Competition Oct. 3 in New Orleans.
CEE Assistant Professor Thanh Helen Nguyen
mentors the group, which includes about 20 engineering students altogether, many of them from Civil and Environmental Engineering. They are researching, designing, and implementing an innovative, sustainable point-of-use water filtration system for the town of Socorro, Guatemala. This year, every household in Socorro received a biosand filter, manufactured locally by Socorro residents after training by the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) team. The filters currently remove bacteria from the water, and the team is researching the use of steel wool to amend them to remove viruses as well.
The NAE competition required the students to develop a video about their project and write a business plan to market their system, said Kim Parker, CEE junior and Project Co-Lead. The plan involves four construction workers from the Socorro area, who will to continue to manufacture and distribute biosand filters to surrounding communities. The NAE award came with a $5,000 prize, which the EWB team will use to do market research and set up the business.
At the WEFTEC conference: WEF Design Team members (l to r) Tony Straub, Alyssa Sohn, Ian Bradley, and Paul Folwarski along with professional adviser Scott Trotter (BS 90) (middle).
The Water Environment Federation conference, WEFTEC, is the largest water quality event in North America, with more than 20,000 attendees and nearly 1,000 companies presenting at an exhibition hall, said Ian Bradley, a CEE graduate student and Research Co-Lead on the Guatemalan Water Project. The EWB team’s second place win came with a $1,500 award, which will be used to further the design of iron-amended biosand filters, Bradley said.
Some of the students will be traveling back to Socorro December 27 through January 10 to evaluate the implementation of the biosand filters and set up an on-site laboratory for additional testing of the iron-amended system. They are seeking a professional engineer or an individual with related experience to accompany them in an advisory capacity; for more information, contact Parker at kmp122 at gmail.com.
The Guatemala water team is supported by two grants from the Environmental Protection Agency; a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant to Nguyen from the National Science Foundation; and the University of Illinois College of Engineering International Programs in Engineering office.
Biosand filters (l to r): Three separate Version 9 filters using traditional sand media, sand mixed with iron particles, and sand mixed with steel wool to study long term (more than185 days) virus removal. Newly released Version 10 filters (sand only, amended with steel wool), which have a larger cross-sectional area and longer sand column height for increased removal.