Two teams of Temple engineering students landed in the final round of eight teams in the recent Engineers Without Borders global competition, Engineering for People Design Challenge. The contest challenged undergraduate teams to broaden their awareness of the social, environmental and economic implications of their engineering solutions, with finalists invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts.
Both teams focused on water solutions for residents of Lobitos and Piedritas, communities in northern Peru: one Temple team looked skyward for their solution by designing a solar still to provide clean drinking water, while another crafted a water purification system for hotel use. Both were advised by Dr. Cory Budischak and Dr. Jon Gerstenhaber and mentored by Renato Rodriguez Nunez.
"The residents in these towns have struggled to satisfy basic needs, especially since the start of the pandemic. Our team decided to focus on what we concluded was the most serious problem in the region: lack of access to clean water," added John Nori, an electrical & computer engineering student and member of the hotel team.
As Nori described, lack of clean water from failing infrastructure can also have a ripple effect on the surrounding economy, particularly by impacting the tourism industry. Hotels employ a significant number of Lobitos and Peidritas residents.
"There is an abundance of untapped groundwater along the northwest coast of Perú, and it is this source that our team proposed to utilize," Nori shared. "Our team recommended use of the existing Pentair Pelican purification unit, which is commercially available, and chlorine dioxide, an eco-friendly purifying chemical."
The team also designed an inexpensive user feedback system that can be added to existing designs and can be easily repaired by someone with limited knowledge of electromechanical systems, aimed at conserving water.
"By providing hotel owners with this type of information, the owners can instruct guests how much water they should be using at any given time to help prevent water shortages and ensure continued quality," Nori added.
Bioengineering students Emily Schuler and Richa Rao, also part of the hotel team, were proud to make it to the finals.
"Making it as far as we did was extremely rewarding to see our hard work pay off in the Grand Finals," Schuler added. "It was a privilege to be able to make it as far as we did and also to be able to see the amazing projects that the other teams created."
"As a team, we believe that engineers have both a duty and an obligation to apply their talents to help solve global problems. This was our opportunity to design something that could improve the lives of those in need, an opportunity to make a difference in the world."