Water Hogs Travel to Washington, D.C. … and Win!


Kieron Durant, Cayla Tichy and Lauren Cole holding the ASCE Sustainable Development Award.

Senior honors chemical engineering student Cayla Tichy and eight other engineering students recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to present the team’s senior design project, designed to provide clean drinking water at low cost in developing countries. The team was excited to develop a simple solution that could potentially save lives; winning the American Society of Civil Engineers Sustainable Development Award was a nice plus.

My name is Cayla Tichy and I am a senior honors chemical engineering student. I recently took a trip to Washington, D.C. to present my senior design project. The project was designed to provide clean drinking water to the developing country of India. My team wanted a system that was simple in design and made of local materials. The first step of the process uses a treadle pump (made of bamboo in India) to pull the water from a well. The water then passes through a sand filter made of sand, gravel, and cloth. This removes the bigger contaminants from the water. Sodium hypochlorite, or bleach, is used to kill the bacteria in the water and is actually made on site. A battery connected to two electrodes in a salt water solution converts the sodium chloride into sodium hypochlorite. The water that has gone through the sand filter is dosed with this sodium hypochlorite. When the battery is depleted, it is recharged using a bicycle hooked up to a DC motor. The bike simply has to be pedaled while the battery is hooked to the motor and this recharges the battery. In addition to the design, my team worked with a communications student who created a set of pictorial instructions in English and Hindi that can be used to construct the system. My team also made an instructional video to supplement the instructions.

My team consisted of six other chemical engineering students and my advisor, Dr. Christa Hestekin. We left Fayetteville early Thursday morning and flew to Washington, D.C. via Detroit. We were participating in the EPA’s P3 (People, Prosperity, and Planet) Competition which was just one of many competitions going on at the USA Science and Engineering Festival. There were students there from all over the country of all ages, from kindergarten to college. I encourage anyone that can attend such a huge science event to go. It was incredible! There were so many neat projects to learn about. Being able to explain our process to so many people was very rewarding. It taught me so much more about presenting and working with fellow scientists. I was also able to talk with many other engineering and science students about their projects and research. In addition, my team was able to meet with staff members from both Congressman Steve Womack’s office and Senator John Boozman’s office to explain our project. We also toured the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum at the Smithsonian Institute.

At the end of the conference, our team was awarded the American Society of Civil Engineers Sustainable Development Award. As team leader of the project, coming away from this positive experience with an award was more than I could have ever hoped for. It was such a wonderful experience.

I will be graduating with my honors chemical engineering degree, summa cum laude, on May 10, 2014. The next weekend I am getting married! After our honeymoon, my husband and I will move to Houston, Texas where I will begin my career as a Facility Engineer at ConocoPhillips.

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