Project Haiti is just one of many being developed at the lab, which moved to a newly renovated and expanded location on campus last fall. Wong and other students also designed an AquaPack, a solar portable water purification system that could be carried like a backpack. Wong and grad students Johnathon Camp and Shavin Pinto continue to modify the system and are working with the University of Central Florida’s Business Incubator Program in hopes of starting a business next year. A percentage of their profits would go toward humanitarian projects, Wong said.
The AquaPack idea works on a smaller scale like the systems students designed in Haiti and can be used for disaster relief and in global communities or even by the military. The team won $90,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year to continue with the project, including reducing the weight and size.
“Everyone should have access to clean water. It’s a basic human right,” said Wong, of Iselin, N.J., who spent this past week working on a larger prototype of the filtration system at the university.
Students have also designed their own filter using “very fine metal mesh,” Compere said as he demonstrated the filter in the lab.
Wong, who is project manager for the AquaPack, will travel to St. Louis for the Clinton Global Initiative University, which brings together experts and student leaders who are improving living
conditions around the world. He will discuss systems they’ve installed in Haiti and the portable backpack project.
Another project Embry-Riddle mechanical engineering students have designed is a solar thermal energy storage unit that gathers heat from the sun and could be used for large air conditioning units. The team will compete later this month in Washington, D.C., in hopes of winning another $90,000 from the EPA to further that project.
Inside the new lab, students are also working on projects ranging from wind turbines to a biodiesel project using vegetable oil left over from the university kitchen fryers to power lawn mowers.
Some of the students have a close understanding of the value of their work. Graduate student Shavin Pinto wishes the AquaPack he helped design was available in 2004 when a tsunami struck his home country of Sri Lanka.
“You don’t realize how important water is until you don’t have it,” said Pinto, who went to Haiti last year and will go again this year. “We’re so used to waking up and opening the tap and having clean water.”
Bjorg Olafs, 24, a grad student from Iceland who’s also working on the solar thermal storage project, was touched by the children in Haiti last year and hopes to return.
“It’s really eye-opening. What you thought about developing countries is different when you actually see it,” she said. “It was awesome to help them out. They ran out into the water as soon as we turned it on. It was a little upsetting to see how they live (in tents after the earthquake), but they are still so positive and have a grateful attitude toward life. They were really friendly and giving.”<< previous 1 2