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An adaptor to aid water filtration wins young engineer prize

Presented as a solution to rising levels of contamination in groundwater, a simple adaptor to aid the filtering of water has won the 10th Society of Public Health Engineers (SoPHE) Young Engineers Awards.

Alastair Hayden, who designed the winning project, considered options for manufacture, material selection and costs.

This year the SoPHE worked with Engineers Without Borders and their partners Caminos de Aqua in Mexico for the awards. The challenge considered the rising levels of arsenic and fluoride in groundwater in areas of Mexico due to over exploitation of aquifiers.

Entrants were tasked with designing a simple small water adaptor, made from cheap and widely-available materials which would fit into a bone char ceramic filter and allow it to be attached to any home-made filtration set-up. Bone char, a natural occurring porous material has been found to be effective in treating the water.

Alastair’s entry impressed the judges with his good understanding of the brief and his thorough research. They felt his final proposal was appropriate, scaleable and sustainable.

Steve Vaughan, Chair of SoPHE, and a member of the judging panel, was particularly impressed by this year’s winner: “It is the simplicity of the solution that makes it really practical and, as is so often the case, such simplicity is only achieved by a really thorough and focussed thought process.”

Having recognised the winning solution, the Society is now working with its industrial partners to produce a manufacturing prototype with a view to reaching full scale production of this clever and low-cost solution.

Prize winner Alastair currently works for Transport for London as a Leads Signalling Communications Engineer, but in his spare time he also volunteers as a Technical Mentor to an Engineers Without Borders UK’s volunteer in Malaysian Borneo.  The prize from SoPHE for the winning entry was a sailing weekend in Devon or Cornwall, for Alastair and a guest.

Joshua Dugdale received a high commendation for his proposal that responded to the brief well and came up with an innovative solution. The judges particularly liked that it could be used in a variety of water containers.

The awards were presented at the Society of Public Health Engineers’ annual dinner in London in November.