Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, No. 5, March 16, 2012

Portable Water Filtration System

The Portable Water Filtration System, which captured second place in the competition, works in combination to transport and decontaminate water. The system is designed to provide a safe and efficient method for people in developing nations to avoid contaminated water-related illnesses.

Student Ideas Supported by Class of ’51 Entrepreneurship Fund

Rensselaer student innovations for detecting bacteria in water, portability for water filtration, and low-cost, high-efficiency biomass home heating earned top honors in the 2012 idea competition sponsored by the Office of Entrepreneurship. The competition is funded by the Class of ’51 Entrepreneurship Fund to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue early development of entrepreneurial ideas.

Dripdrop Bacteria Detection
Nathan Pankowsky ’13 and James Davis ’12 will be awarded the $2,500 first prize for their innovative technology and entrepreneurial approach in creating a system for quickly and effectively testing water for bacteria such as coliform, fecal coliform, and E. coli.

The Dripdrop system utilizes proprietary software, hardware, and process to enable farmers, and municipal and industrial water treatment facilities, to track and test water quality in real time to avoid the slow, time-consuming and expensive method of sending samples to a lab and waiting for results. The system will enable users to test continually and respond immediately to changing conditions so that water contamination can be detected and corrected.

Pankowsky and Davis, who both dual-major in mechanical engineering and design, innovation, and society.

Portable Water Filtration System
A cross-functional undergraduate student team earned the second place spot with their development of a portable trailer and pump system that works in combination to transport and decontaminate water. The system is designed to provide a safe and efficient method for people in developing nations with scarce and distant water supplies to avoid contaminated water-related illnesses.

The team—Nathaniel MacDonald ’13, mechanical engineering, Philip Maas ’13, electrical engineering, Rosemarie Mastropolo ’13, biomedical engineering, Cole George ’13, electrical engineering, and Alexander Roumanidakis ’13, aeronautical engineering—will receive $1,500 toward the further development of their innovation. This team has also evolved their idea through concept, CAD design, engineering drawings, operational prototype, and user's manual.

The trailer can be easily attached to any bicycle or pulled by hand. The system is driven by a peristaltic pump that receives its power from a chain and sprocket system that connects the pump shaft to the axle of the trailer. While being transported, source water is pumped through filters from a receiving tank to remove contaminants and travels to a clean water tank for safe use.

Woodchip Heater
Electrical engineering major Alex Worcester ’12 won third place honors in the competition and a $1,000 prize with his novel approach to small-scale woodchip combustion for home heating. His design utilizes a renewable, biomass resource in the form of woodchip waste to deliver low operational costs, high efficiency, wide output variability, and infrequent refilling in an environmentally friendly home woodchip heater.

The heater uses an updraft gasifier approach with four combustion zones, a barrel combustor, and a pyrolysis process and is expected to be 20 to 30 percent less costly than a comparably sized wood pellet boiler or furnace. The woodchip fuel is locally available from construction debris, old pallets, and tree trimmings. Chips cost approximately 15 percent less per ton when compared to wood pellets, and heating oil is about 12 times more expensive than wood chips.

Worcester is preparing to develop a full-scale operational prototype and performance tracking instrumentation.

"This year's winning ideas demonstrate concepts that the students have been evolving and improving at each step of development," said Rob Chernow, vice provost for entrepreneurship and chair of the competition. "They have moved their concepts much closer to the reality of commercialization."
The annual competition is judged by Chernow, with assistance from a committee of faculty members, graduate students, researchers, and alumni. To qualify for the Class of ’51 Entrepreneurship Fund, entrants must articulate a clear statement of the opportunity and resulting ideas with supporting data; describe how their solution addresses a problem; provide enough details to demonstrate that the solution is feasible and sustainable; and include diagrams and sketches to illustrate their points.

This competition is one of three endowed funds established in 2000 by the Class of ’51, in honor of their 50th Reunion year. Winning students also will receive hands-on mentoring in helping them to take their innovations to the next steps.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, Number 5, March 16, 2012
©2012 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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