South Fayette, North Allegheny students create water filtration device

Published Apr 21, 2014 at 2:20 pm (Updated Apr 21, 2014 at 2:20 pm)

A group of students from South Fayette High School and North Allegheny Intermediate High School were tasked with finding a solution to a problem affecting the world – the lack of clean water.

In total, about 50 students from South Fayette’s science seminar class and North Allegheny’s social studies class were involved in the project. The collaboration was part of the Global Passport Project, which helps partner school districts with businesses.

More than a dozen students presented their findings at a formal presentation April 15 at Thar Process, an company based in Pittsburgh that works to provide large-scale supercritical fluid technology solutions.

“South Fayette began this journey five or six years ago with All-Clad,” said South Fayette Superintendent Dr. Bille Rondinelli at the program. “We wanted to expand that and look at other school districts for partners.”

In addition to All-Clad, South Fayette students have had the opportunity to work with UPMC, LANXESS and Siemens. The Global Passport Project also receives assistance from the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Connect.

In the fall, the students were given the task of deciding which global issue would be the direction of the project. After visiting Thar Process, the team decided that global sustainable water solutions would be the focus. This year is the first time South Fayette has partnered with another school district for the project.

The students decided which countries would benefit from water filtration and also designed the system and how it would sustain in the chosen country.

“The process is the learning. You work so well together,” said Tom Isaac, who teaches science seminar at South Fayette. “The product you have produced is incredible.

“I’m very curious to see what you have been working on for six months,” said Dr. Lalit Chordia, CEO of Thar Process.

The presentation started off with student Kambree Love of South Fayette, explaining how the group decided the countries that would benefit most from clean water via a desalination machine. The group started off with 10 countries and eventually narrowed it down to one.

“We put a lot of thought into it,” said Kristina Fowler, a South Fayette student.

South Fayette student Robert O’Kelly explained that the water crisis was chosen because “780 million people lack access to clean water.” He added, “A five-minute shower uses more water than an average person in a developing country uses in a day.”

South Fayette student Joey Blum introduced a video of how people struggle to obtain water in developing countries. For instance, in Sub-Saharan Africa, mostly women and children walk three hours a day to get water, and it is often contaminated.

Blum explained that all the time spent gathering water has consequences on things like education, “because women and children spend so many hours collecting water.”

South Fayette students Justin Scott, Brandon Corelli and Jake Campbell presented a model of the desalination system.

The group explained that the desalination system would take seawater – up to 25,000 gallons per day – and heat it to 450 degrees Celsius and 250 bars of pressure.

“There has to be a tank for storage,” Corelli said. He added there also needs to be another tank for storing the salt that is taken out of the water.

The group estimated that about three-quarters of an acre of land would be needed for the system.

As far as choosing a location, Savannah Stewart of South Fayette said they looked at the need for clean water as well as the size of the area.

“We wanted the machine to make a big difference,” Stewart said, so the group focused on smaller cities.

The group narrowed it down to four areas: Cox Bazar, Bangladesh; Sre Ambel, Cambodia; Tuxpan, Mexico and Goa, India.

Next, North Allegheny students gave their portion of the presentation.

“We have our own Final Four,” said Aubrae Moore, of North Allegheny. She said the group focused on the entire country, rather than the cities, because more data was available country-wide.

“We looked at government, economy, education and overall need,” Moore said.

The group chose India as the location of the desalination machine as about 170 million people in that country lack access to clean water.

“The end goal is to help as many people as possible,” Moore said.

Lastly, students from South Fayette’s Future Business Leaders of America group presented final recommendations.

The group said using Thar’s new filtration system, virtually any toxin could be eliminated from the water. They stated that if the system were to actually be implemented in India, three to five employees would need to work there.

“It’s actually cheaper to use this system than other systems,” said South Fayette student Frank Morelli.

The South Fayette group also was in charge of naming the device, which they dubbed the Supercritical Purification System.

“This is a unique device capable of changing the world. No other device does supercritical heating,” said Ryan McGowan of South Fayette.

McGowan said the machine would cost about $150,000 to manufacture and about $6,500 to ship to India. The group calculated $10,000 for natural gas to run the machine and another $60,000 for labor per year. McGowan said the costs were based on U.S. dollars.

Morelli added that the machine is “ethical and responsible because we are helping people who are in need.”

In order to fund the desalination device, Lauren Deutch of South Fayette said the group looked into grants. She added that India would be a good test market before expanding the device to other areas.

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