Iowa Students Hope to Make Water Sanitizer Widely Available

What do you do when you learn that about one-sixth of the world's population -- nearly one billion people, according to UNICEF -- lack clean water on a daily basis?

If you happen to be one of 15 student engineers at the University of Iowa, you roll up your sleeves and design a $5, hand-held device to sanitize water and potentially save lives.

Although the student invention began as a class assignment, it has since become a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first-place-award-winning project (2008 P3 Awards).

Craig Just, faculty adviser to the UI College of Engineering chapter of the organization Engineers for a Sustainable World, said that the EPA award represents an honor for the students and much more for citizens in developing countries.

"We have some of the best students on the planet here at Iowa, and winning the competition was only the beginning," he said. "We hope to multiply the $75,000 first-place award tenfold in the coming year so that we can make a substantial human health impact in our target countries."

So far, Just and his students have worked with residents of Xicotepec, Mexico. They plan to make water sanitizers available in Ghana and other developing countries in the future.

"I've spoken with a potential industrial partner, a worldwide distributor of chlorine generators designed for pools and spas, that is interested in the effort. These types of partnerships could greatly expand the reach of the project," Just said.

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