Agua Clara in Washington DC

I have recently been to Washington to compete in a student engineering contest under the umbrella of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with as theme P3 (People Planet Prosperity). I was there with a team of 12 Cornell students.

We were representing a non-profit research organization nested at Cornell: Agua Clara. Agua Clara aims to provide remote communities with clear water, mainly in Honduras and currently expanding to India. Students design water treatment facilities at Cornell, they are implemented by Cornell engineers on the field, working closely with local engineers, technicians and of course the targeted community. I am taking an Agua Clara course, which actually means I am working in a team on designing and building a water treatment system. This semester, we have been trying to optimize a foam filter which is a really cool tool to get your water clear. You just get water through a kind of special foam, push it through it with enough pressure and you get pretty clear water. What is exciting about this is that you don’t need any electricity to clear the water, and the installation can be quite small.

We were competing in DC with the goal of winning the first price, which would represent 2 years of funding for the Agua Clara student-driven research. A pretty big deal!

We drove there with vans we hired at Cornell. It was an absolutely hectic journey: one of the vans did not start anymore after our first stop. So we had to drive back to the closest car hiring place (an airport), get a new van and drive back to the place we had left half of our team. We finally arrived in DC -after a trip of 10 hours!

The competition was a sort exhibition in a park, under party tests. But no parties out there! (Almost) only very serious stuff, competitors with their sustainable solution, judges, press, visitors from the whole US, random visitors just passing by while walking their dog etc… It was a very nice atmosphere, everyone super enthusiastic and motivated to save the planet: just the way we like it!

Unfortunately we didn’t win the first price… We got an Honourable Mention, which simply means we were good but not good enough. Too bad! But anyway, it was a great experience. We learned a lot from the other competitors and from the presenting itself, and had lots of fun in between presentations!