A team of Gonzaga University engineering students earned a P3 Honorable Mention award for its West Africa Technology, Education and Reciprocity (WATER) project in the fourth annual National Sustainable Design Expo April 20-22 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Flanked on both sides by the Gonzaga University WATER Project Engineering students was Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. (in green blouse) who met with the students who won an honorable mention award. The competition was held at the National Mall April 20-22 in Washington, D.C.
The project sought to improve the production of drinking water filters to be used in Benin, located in sub-Saharan Africa. During a Gonzaga course taught last summer at the Songhai Center for Sustainable Development in Porto-Novo, Benin, Gonzaga students studied the complexities associated with access to clean drinking water and undertook a variety of projects to improve the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of the filters.
The Gonzaga engineering students competed with more than 50 teams from colleges and universities nationwide vying for additional funds. The EPA had awarded Gonzaga and each of the other teams $10,000 grants in fall 2007 to develop their P3 projects for the benefit of People, Prosperity, and the Planet. The P3 teams have worked on their projects since then.
At the National Mall, all of the teams and 40 exhibitors demonstrated their sustainable designs and new products for green buildings, alternative energy technologies, strategies for rainwater collection and purification, and many more sustainable technologies. The co-sponsors of this year’s competition were the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education and the World Environment Center.
The Gonzaga team’s project picked up where previous Gonzaga engineering student teams had left off in the continuing effort to help the people of Benin overcome major health challenges caused by the contaminated drinking water.
Gonzaga’s principal investigator for the project was Brad Striebig, associate professor of civil engineering. The co-investigators were: Phil Appel, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Dan Garrity, assistant professor of broadcast studies; Terry Gieber, art professor; Mary Jeannot, associate professor of
Teaching English as a Second Language; Susan Norwood, nursing professor; and Matt McPherson, assistant professor of business.
Gonzaga students who traveled to Washington, D.C. to present their work included: Christine Fagnant, John Gilliland, Dustin Hannafious, Kayla Latimer, Justin Meeks, Ashley Parrish, and Kim Remick. Gilbert Nalelia, the project technical liaison and an engineer from Kenya, traveled with the group to present the project.
Sub-Saharan Africa faces severe shortages of potable water now and in the coming decades. These shortages are exacerbated by extreme poverty. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals are realistic objectives to improve access to water, sanitation and education and simultaneously reduce the number of people living below the poverty level. Appropriate technologies for water supply must synergistically address the three pillars of sustainable design: Solutions must be economical, environmentally benign and socially acceptable.
A process to manufacture ceramic drinking water filters was implemented during part of the Gonzaga course. Students also studied the economic, engineering and social variables that made access to potable water such a challenge in Benin. They then analyzed results of data collected to make improvements to the drinking water manufacturing and marketing process during this academic year. Civil and mechanical engineering students designed a solid bio-fuel feed system to fire the drying kiln for the ceramics and activated carbon used in the drinking water filters. Students in the language, education and nursing programs developed socially responsible educational materials to help market affordable point-of-use water filters in Benin.
Health assessments, educational materials and technical data all were used as metrics to measure the project’s success. As part of the ongoing collaboration between the Songhai Center and Gonzaga, a multi-year health assessment and epidemiological study was begun and continues.
During the National Sustainable Design Expo, all teams brought their designs, prototypes, and other exhibition materials. Each P3 team was evaluated by a series of judges using a judging schedule set before the event. Scores from the written summary documents and the presentations were combined into a final overall score for each P3 team. Based on these scores, the judges recommend to the EPA the teams they believe should receive EPA’s P3 Awards and the chance for more funding.
The EPA considered entries from a wide range of categories, including agriculture, built environment, materials and chemicals, energy, information resources, and water.
For more information, please contact Brad Striebig, associate professor of civil engineering at Gonzaga at (509) 323-3530 or via e-mail; or contact Cynthia Nolt-Helms, EPA, Office of Research and Development at (202) 343-9693 or via e-mail.