Engineering Purity: Organic Water Filtration in Kenya


The type of people that Penn’s looking for, when you go through the admissions process, here, is that extra special something that leads to people like Matt and Adrian, finding opportunity like the President’s Engagement Prize, and taking the initiative to do something with it. My Name’s Adrian Lievano. I’m a senior, here, at the University of Pennsylvania. And I’m Matt Lisle. I’m also senior here at the University of Pennsylvania in mechanical engineering. – [Adrian] There are 800 million people in this world that lack access to clean water. – [Matt] And over 3.4 million of those people die each year from water-borne related illnesses. So the need for an innovation in water technology is more prevalent than ever before. Some of the solutions that exist out there are just either too expensive, they’re not sustainable, or they cause more harm than good. – [Matt] And so, what we wanna do, is to create a solution that works for one of these communities in an organic way.

– Matt and Adrian, they were both of my best students in one of my classes. I think it’s no surprise where they are right now. And their project, what they are proposing is actually very big. They’re trying to recover rainwater and make it potable. Make it water such that you can drink. – They’re great engineers, but more importantly, they’re engineers with a mission to make a difference for people whose lives are really cut short because they don’t have access to the things that we take for granted, like clean water. – We came up with this idea after we heard about this seed called the miracle seed. It’s called the moringa oleifera. One of these seeds can purify between one and four liters of water. You take these seeds and you crush them up into a fine powder, mix it up, let it settle, and then you’ve removed between 90 and 99 percent of bacteria, heavy metals, and all the stuff that you don’t wanna drink.

The map of the world that needs clean water and where the seed grows is pretty much one to one. Imagine the impact that we could make. – [Adrian] I think we can do something pretty incredible here. Our plan is starting this summer, we’re gonna do research and development to try to understand how the system works at a large scale. – [Matt] So, this project is focused around a school that we’re going to. The school’s located in Kimana, Kenya. It’s a rural part of Kenya. – [Adrian] And so the big problem for these students is that they have to walk eight miles a day just to get at access to clean water. Now, this was only possible because of the culture here at Penn. If it wasn’t for such an award like the President’s Engagement Prize, this woulda never happened.

– [Matt] Getting that call from President Gutmann, and knowing that I’m gonna get to work on what I’ve been dreaming about for years, I mean it’s unbelievable, it’s indescribable. – [Paulo ] The President’s Engagement Prize, I think is the only one of its kind at colleges and universities in the U.S. And it says a lot about Penn. It says that Penn is concerned in producing good citizens and harnessing creativity and investing in it. And I think more universities will follow suit. – If you’re gonna pick a place to do a project like this, this is the place. – [Paulo] Matt and Adrian’s future is very bright. I can see them really having an impact.

This is just a seed. And it can grow to something much bigger than this..