Human Powered Water..– Update

Human Powered Water Purifier – Update

In order to turn their design into reality, the lead students representing the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) open-source human powered water purifier design group met at Western Kentucky University over the weekend of May 16-18. The students came from as far away as Sweden and Venezuela but they each came with one intent: to build a water purifier that would function without supplemental electricity or battery power.
When they assembled on the Western Kentucky campus, it was the first time that the team had actually met in person. Quickly putting the introductions behind them, the team worked through the weekend to build the water purifier cell.

“The students all brought different talents to the build process’” commented Dave Soukup, a representative of ASME. Much in the same way that the online community collaborated to provide design guidance to the young engineers, the team used their hands-on talents in a collaborative way to build the prototype purification unit.

By the end of a marathon three-day session, the students also had done their part to change the image of engineers, according to David Soukup, a representative of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, “often people think of engineers as people who sit behind computers. Showing how engineers contribute to humanity is a different thrust for us.”

Another evolution in design promoted by the effort was the use of the open-source collaboration model. “This was our first time to try and get people to have input on this sort of thing,” Soukup said. He went on to say there was a fair amount of participation by non-ASME members during the design and development stage. Essentially any interested party could offer suggestions and guidance to the team via the online community portal set up and maintained by ASME.

Though the students left on May 18, the project continues as the faculty advisors to the project, Robert Choate and Kevin Schmaltz (both of western Kentucky University) await test results on water samples. Based on the water quality tests and the lessons learned from the initial prototype, a second prototype will be constructed later this summer that should allow the concept to be refined into a more effective, efficient and marketable product.

For their part, the students, William Hagen of the University of Miami, José La Verde of Lunds University in Skane, Sweden, Javier Lopez of Simón Bolívar University in Caracas, Venezuela, Ken Ruble of New Mexico State University; and Zach Pearl of Western Kentucky, were each excited about the opportunity to design a product that could benefit impoverished nations or communities hit by natural disasters.

“As Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, there is a huge need for something like what we’re working on,
” Ruble said.

“Clean water is an issue around the world. We need to look at ways to eliminate poverty. One way is to provide clean potable water to all people,” said Hagen.

Lopez and La Verde said the project allowed them to use their engineering and technical skills to help society and improve the quality of life.

Pearl commended ASME for implementing the open source project and bringing together engineers from around the world with an array of design ideas. “It’s good to see that we have an organization that is interested in helping a good cause,” Pearl said.

Congratulations to the ASME design team and all who contributed to their efforts!