Simple water conservation solutions can put us to shame every time we use fresh water to flush our toilets. As a part of GE Edison Challenge students from engineering colleges created building complex projects that incorporated water technologies needed to meet the future water crisis. Simple effective and practical ideas from a foot peddle for a water sink, to using grey water from our baths and laundry to flush toilets can put our collective minds to think. This competition helped us realise the magnitude of the problem related to water and brought our attention to the fundamental problems haunting mankind. Unlike global issues like terrorism or recession, this needs to be tackled by the engineering, scientific community and humanity as a whole. We have currently come up with great solutions with regards to water conservation; however, a lot is yet to be discovered. Energy issue do not have a fixed solution; and there is no single answer. Such open-ended problems can only be tackled by collective efforts, from the best engineers from all over the world, says the winning team from IIT Madras.
Vishaal Krishnan, Siddharth S, Vasant Sridhar, R Subramanian, and Ashwin Krishnamoorthy, all third year students from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, emerged as winners as their innovation was in water storage, metering, and in the financial aspects of the whole system. Our innovation lies in the fact that we combined aesthetics with water purification and harvesting. This is another reason why we think our solution might not meet with severe opposition, and is pretty easy to incorporate into real life projects. The team believes that they have a commercial and feasible solution at hand but its the attitude that needs redressal first. We have developed a clean, low-energy and a cheap technology. The public is very much aware of water-problems and not every place in India enjoys the luxury of clean and quality water. More than the urban population the rural and suburban folks are suffering from water related issues. Another important issue is the mentality of people in the urban settlements. A term like grey water recycling comes across as using unclean water for bathing, which, we'd like to point out, is definitely not the case. People don't mind using fresh, clean, water for flushing. This attitude has to change, and we're not sure how that can be done.
Competitions allow interaction with industry
Opportunities like these give the student fraternity the platform to interact with the industry. During the finals, a plethora of industry engineers visited our stalls. We got an opportunity to interact with global leaders from the organisation. Having spent so much time in the engineering field, they had a lot to tell us. Their suggestions, recommendations, and questions helped us a lot in getting a perspective over this. Lets not forget the students of today are the professionals of tomorrow. Similar initiatives by the other leading companies will definitely help spread the awareness, while addressing several key issues, say the team.
Coming from different streams of engineering and with different talents and interest helped the team come out with great solution for the competition. Any problem that mankind faces, requires a multi-dimensional approach. A single mechanical or electrical engineer can not solve any realistic problem alone. There is a need for a dedicated and systematic team approach to solve any real-time issues. Team diversity is a very important factor to efficiently solve problems as it promotes different view points, ideas and opinions. A multi-dimensional background helps a team gain an overall perspective from several angles, says Ashwin. Our team is a very diverse one. More than our majors, we had team members from varying sectors of engineering. Subramaniam was extremely interested in sustainability and green technology, Vishaal in control systems, Vasant in finance, Ashwin in mechanical engineering, and I personally love electronics, adds Siddharth.
This competition promoted great bonding. Our team meetings had both the fun elements and stressful situations. We learnt to stay enthusiastic despite tough times. We learnt the importance of working in a team and how to handle stressful situations maturely. We learnt to stick together as a team through thick and thin. Though we get a lot of technical knowledge from our classrooms, the real world is different. Learning is very different from implementation. We worked a lot to design and integrate our technologies and make it financially feasible. Bringing technology into reality is our take-away from this competition.
These youngsters are more or less clear how they would use their prize money. We would like to part some of the prize with charity. With the remaining, we would like to invest in perfecting our technology and prototyping it. This money would also be spent in trying out new ideas related to water technology and refining our design.