By Melisa Virnig, College of Engineering and Architecture intern
PULLMAN – The environment stands to benefit from two clean technology projects that partner engineering and business students in real-world collaborations.
Conceived by students at Washington State University, one project is a cost and space efficient vertical bike rack. The other is a water filtration system for developing countries.
Each team received funding to develop the projects. They will compete in the University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge on March 31.
Contest prep hones skills
They will be judged by cleantech investors, industry experts and entrepreneurs on their pitches, prototypes, business plans and the potential impact their ideas could have on the environment. The grand prize is $10,000.
They also plan to compete in the WSU Business Plan Competition in April.
The teams are from a capstone design course taught by Denny Davis and Howard Davis, professors in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, and Joseph Harris, director of entrepreneurial studies in the College of Business.
“The more time they get to present their ideas, the better,” said Howard Davis. “They become more polished in their presenting skills, and it’s a great opportunity to network. It’s also an opportunity for students to get some startup capital.”
Improved bike storage
One of the teams of five students is creating a vertical bike rack called CycleBox. It will be space and cost efficient, while offering secure storage, said Allen Winzler, senior civil engineering student.
“At transit stations, they’ve started charging,” he said. “Our bike rack will decrease the cost of ownership and operation because it won’t need an attendant.
“It will be enclosed, which is a security component,” he said. “Only people who have paid or have a membership can access it. Each bike will be locked individually.”
Winzler said the rack should hold twice as many bikes as a typical rack.
Clean water for developing world
The team working on the water filtration and delivery system is partnering with Developing World Technologies for fundraising and advertising. Students are working with Oumarou Badini and Chris Pannkuk, of WSU international agricultural development, to find a community in northern Ghana to put the system to use.
The system will both cleanse the water of harmful protozoa and bacteria like E. coli and cholera, and will do so in a way that’s realistic for places with few resources, said Joshua Ryan, senior civil engineering student.
“It is run by gravity instead of a pump,” he said. “People won’t have to worry about parts breaking easily or needing electricity.”
The team hopes to create molds that allow communities to build the system using local materials. The molds would be made in the U.S. and be sent to developing countries, said Sarah Sneesby, senior chemical engineering student.
“A huge part is to find local materials that can be used,” she said. “The molds, depending on the material being used, can also be used a number of times.”
Hoping to start businesses
Model of bike rack.
Both teams hope to one day see their prototypes put to use in the real world, helping the communities they are targeting.
“It would be really cool if we could implement CycleBox in the Seattle and Portland areas,” said Lindsey N. Homan, senior bioengineering major.
“I think the bicycle project has the potential of launching into a business,” Howard Davis said.
The water system team has been applying for grants in hopes of furthering development, said Sneesby.
“The ideal goal is that we find out we’ve got the grants and will be able to start the nonprofit and make a business out of it,” she said.
“I’m excited about both of these projects,” Howard Davis said. “The students have a lot of energy.”