Courtesy of Cornell University

AguaClara team won a grant from the EPA to develop a water treatment pump.

July 13, 2019

Student Environmental Group Wins $15,000 EPA Grant for Water Treatment Pump

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.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “People, Prosperity and the Planet” grant program has named Cornell University’s AguaClara student team as the recipient of a $15,000 grant to fund the development of a pump that can treat drinking water without the use of electricity.

Guided by Prof. Monroe Weber-Shirk Ph.D. ’92 and Prof. Traci M Nathans-Kelly, civil and environmental engineering, the proposed project aims to develop an electricity-free pump so that institutions and facilities can use this technology in water treatment plants at lower cost and easier accessibility.

Weber-Shirk first founded the AguaClara program in 2005, which allow student project teams to conduct research and create designs to make sustainable water treatment accessible to poor communities.

“I have spent [time] working in Honduras a 19-year-old and that experience led me to really want to do more work in Latin America,” Weber-Shirk said.

Since then, the program has made an impact in Honduras, Nicaragua and India, providing designs for sustainable water treatment plants to interested parties in order to “empower” people into building the plants, according to Weber-Shirk.

The People, Prosperity and the Planet program, which was first established by the EPA in 2004, funds student research to “benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet,” especially those researching with technology, ideas and more to solve environmental problems and promote a sustainable future.

The program has since awarded more than $15.5 million to students across the country. This year, the Cornell student team became one of 21 recipients of this year-long grant for the Phase One of the two-phased programs.

The first phase of the program is awarded for teams to research and develop their project for “proof of concept” to showcase at the National Student Design Expo. These teams are then eligible in the second phase to compete for awards up to $100,000 to develop the project in a “real world setting.”

Cheer Tsang ’19, Alyssa Ju ’21, Ching Pang ’21 and Maile McCann ’19, all engineering students, are the faces behind writing the proposal for the Phase Two of the EPA award, which they intend to submit in the near future.