Four high school engineering teams were recognized at the Let’s Solve Water Challenge on Oct. 10 for their original water filtration device designs. Six FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) teams competed in the fourth annual contest sponsored by Xylem Inc., a global water technology leader.

This year’s challenge focused on designing and building a water filtration system. Water filtration is critical to ensuring that water pumped throughout the world is clean and safe to drink or use for hygienic and/or sanitation purposes.

“Xylem’s goal is to develop more sustainable ways to treat, test and use water. These students are the future of engineering, and the Let’s Solve Water Challenge enables them to begin working today to solve tomorrow’s water-related issues,” says Ken Napolitano, president of Xylem’s Applied Water Systems business unit.

Xylem engineers kicked off the two-week competition on Sept. 19 at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, N.Y., the program’s primary advocate located 250 miles from Xylem’s headquarters in Rye Brook, N.Y. Students were given a $50 budget to design and build a water filtration system using tubing, fittings, fasteners and other materials that will filter water with particulates up to 1/16 inches in diameter. Teams worked side-by-side with water technology experts from Xylem.

Students used their engineering skills to manage design constraints and build a product that filters dirty water.

As part of the final competition, six teams presented their working devices and described their development process to a panel of judges from Xylem that included:

  • Chris Felix, product development engineer
  • Paul Ruzicka, Global Center of Excellence, residential, commercial and wastewater

The panel of judges evaluated each team on design, time, exertion and cost. Winning teams were awarded prizes totaling $4,000 based on four categories. The winning teams from this year’s Let’s Solve Water Challenge are:

  • Best Filtration: Cougar Tech from Honeoye Falls-Lima High School
  • Greatest Volume Filtered: The IgKnighters from McQuaid Jesuit High School
  • Lowest Cost Solution: Devil Tech from Victor Senior High School
  • Most Elegant Design: Grapes of Wrath from Naples High School

“Learning to design and build an efficient product and then demonstrate a working sample of it is a good opportunity for emerging engineers. We’re excited to be involved in the Let’s Solve Water Challenge to support the next generation of industry professionals,” Napolitano says.

Xylem, based in Rye Brook, N.Y., serves the public utility, residential, commercial and agricultural markets with a variety of pump and water treatment products. The company has about 12,500 employees worldwide. For more information, visit