Thursday, December 19, 2013

K-12 Clean Water Poster Contest

A talented group of young artists were showcased at the 2013 OU International WaTER Conference by participating in the K-12 Clean Water Poster Contest. The contest, in its second year, is part of the WaTER Center K-12 outreach program that reflects an aspect of the WaTER Center’s goal by using innovative teaching and leadership activities to promote peace and raise public awareness of the global water crisis.

Contest entries displayed at the WaTER Conference
All Norman K-12 students (public, private and home schooled) were invited to participate in the contest.  Prizes were given for first, second, and third place winners in each of four categories (Kindergarten-Second grade, Third-Fifth grade, Sixth-Eighth grade, and Ninth-12th grade). Honorable mentions were awarded in each category, as well as the teacher in each category with the greatest number of posters submitted. The winning submissions were chosen from 72 poster entries and were displayed during the WaTER Conference, held Sept. 23-25.  The winning artists, and their families, were invited to attend the closing ceremonies of the conference, where the recipient of the OU International Water Prize, Ada Oko-Williams, awarded their prizes.
The K-12 Clean Water Poster Contest had 72 entries
This year’s winners in the K-2 category were Jonathon Viewing (first place) and James Merryman (second place), the 3-5 category Jennifer Waggoner (first place), Eleanor Totten (second place) and Tuqua Al-Ibadi (third place), the 6-8 category Karen Wren (first place), Emily Rockers (second place) and Zack Thompson (third place), and the 9-12 category Gustav Ruiz (first place), Siarra Williams (second place) and Da’Londa Gordon (third place).  The winning teachers included Mrs. Pantalone (K-2 & 9-12 categories) from Dimensions Academy, Mrs. Morris (3-5 category) from All Saints Catholic School, and Ms. Theresa Bragg (6-8 category) also from All Saints.  Honorable mentions were Wyatt Willis, Dustin McCabon (3-5), Sofia Ramirez Evans, Ali Gilstrap (6-8) and Tayler Lamascus (9-12).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dr. Feleke Zewge Receives Honor

Dr. Feleke Zewge, a long-time collaborator and friend of the WaTER Center, received the 2013 Ethiopian National Outstanding Achievement Award in Applied Research. He received the Award - which included a trophy, medal, and a small financial incentive - from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia on October 27.

Dr. Feleke Zewge (center) confers with colleagues during the 2013 WaTER Conference.

Dr. Zewge is the National Fluorosis Mitigation Project Coordinator for the Ministry of Water Resources in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He is also an Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry/Engineering in the Department of Chemistry at Addis Ababa University. Dr. Zewge received his BS in Chemistry from Addis Ababa University and MS and Ph.D. degrees in Environmental Engineering from Gunma University (Japan). He also spent one year as a Visiting Scientist at  Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Applied Science, Department of Chemical Technology, Delft, The Netherlands.
Dr. Feleke (far left) served as one of the International Water Prize jurors in 2010, along with (left to right) Diana Maritza Betancourt, James Mihelcic, Jean McCluskey, and Robert Adamski.

In addition to his research on the movement and reactivity of toxic organic and inorganic pollutants, Dr. Feleke has been working on the field implementation of water defluoridation technologies in rural villages in Ethiopia. He is currently conducting field studies in remote Ethiopian villages using bone char, aluminum oxide, and chemical precipitation methods for fluoride removal. This experience will result in more economical and sustainable methods of fluorosis mitigation through removal of drinking water sources. Dr. Feleke was an invited keynote speaker at our 2013 International WaTER Conference. The topic of his talk was: "Fluoride Mitigation Options: Challenges and Opportunities".

Congratulations, Dr. Feleke!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

America's Top Young Scientist to Attend Conference

In many ways, Deepika Kurup is not your average high school sophomore. Not many girls her age have a black belt in karate. And not many girls her age have been so passionate about solving the global water crisis. Deepika is both of these things as well as being an outstanding science and math student at Nashua High School South in Nashua New Hampshire.

Deepika Kurup is a bright, passionate sophomore student at Nashua (NH) High School South.

In 2012, Deepika was chosen as the winner of the Discover Education 3M Top Young Scientist Challenge. Her award-winning project was to develop a practical approach to harness solar energy for water purification, an approach which she plans to deploy in places around the world that are affected by water pollution. Her passion stems in part from her exposure to unsafe drinking water at an early age in her native India. A video that demonstrates her project can be seen here.

Deepika showcases her project at the White House earlier this year.
In addition to being invited to attend and present a poster at the Third OU International WaTER Conference, Deepika has been recognized by national and international media and received accolades and invitations from multi-national companies and universities. She was runner-up (along with an Oklahoman, Leah Huling) for the 2013 U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize. A press release for this prize can be seen here. She challenges herself academically with several AP classes and scored a perfect 800 in SAT Math before the age of 13! She is a member of the Julian C. Stanley Study of Exceptional Talents and has received first place at the 2013 New Hampshire Science and Engineering Exposition in the Environmental Science Division. In her free time, she practices martial arts, gives talks to schools encouraging students to pursue math and sicence, and works to increase awareness of the global water crisis. 

We welcome Deepika to this year's Conference, a gathering place where she can rub shoulders with many other people who share her passion for clean water.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Record Number of International Scholarships

This year's Conference will feature a record number of international scholarship recipients. Twenty-one (21) recipients from eleven developing nations have been awarded paid travel expenses to the U.S. to share knowledge and experience in WASH projects. For many of these travelers, this will be their first trip abroad and/or their first trip to the United States.
Scholarship recipients from the 2011 WaTER Conference are shown with Dr. David Sabatini (center), Director of the OU WaTER Center.
The diverse mix of recipients includes 10 females and 11 males who represent universities, NGOs, and governmental posts. In alphabetical order, the following persons have received scholarships to attend this year's Conference:
   Abaire, Bekele; Catholic Relief Services (Ethiopia)
   Bandaranayake, G.M.; University of Sri Jayewardenepura (Sri Lanka)
   Butler, Lauren; Engineers in Action (Bolivia)
   Cabero Ugalde, Mariel; Engineers in Action (Bolivia)
   Campos, Maria; University of the Philippines Open University (Philippines)
   Chitwood, Derek; Partners in Hope (China)
   Gwala, Poonam; CSIR-NEERI (India)
   Jadhav, Asmita; North Maharashtra University / NEERI (India)
   Kagne, Srimanth; NEERI (India)
   Kpangon, Hector; Water and Sanitation for Africa (Benin)
   Labhasetwar, Pawan; CSIR-NEERI (India)
   Mengesha, Esayas Samuel; Oromo Self-Help Organization (Ethiopia)
   Naser, Abu; International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (Bangladesh)
   Nguyen, Viet-Anh; Institute of Environmental Science and Engineering, Hanoi (Vietnam)
   Nijhawan, Anisha; NEERI (India)
   Olukanni, David; Covenant University (Nigeria)
   Paulos, Beyene; Ministry of Science and Technology (Ethiopia)
   Susheela, A.K.; Fluorosis Foundation of India (India)
   John, Viji; NEERI (India)
   Wanja Mwengi, Esther; Nakuru Defluoridation Company (Kenya)
   Wanjiku, Nancy; Nakuru Defluoridation Company (Kenya)
Lauren Butler works with Engineers in Action (EIA), a non-profit organization that builds partnerships with in-country engineers to work towards sustainable solutions in Central America. (Photo: EIA website)
We look forward to both the educational and cultural exchange that these participants bring to the 2013 University of Oklahoma International WaTER Conference!

Highlights of the Upcoming WaTER Conference

The 2013 University of Oklahoma (OU) International WaTER Conference is only 5 weeks away! The Conference theme "Synergy at the Interface: Integrating Technology, Social Entrepreneurship and Behavior Change" is designed to bring together participants from multiple disciplines responding to the UN Millennium Development Goals of bringing water and sanitation to developing countries.  Attendees will include water and sanitation experts from academia, industry, NGOs, government and foundations.
A Native American traditional dance opens the Conference in 2011.
The Conference consists of two full days of meetings (Sept. 23-24), followed by a half-day of optional workshops (Sept. 25). If you have not yet registered for the Conference, you can do so by clicking here.

Just a few of the highlights of this year's Conference are listed here. These highlights include:
  • poster and concurrent paper sessions devoted to both technical and non-technical topics and sectors - e.g., groundwater and well-drilling challenges, WASH innovation, capacity-building, climate change impacts, gender and social equity, fluoride effects and mitigation, ecological engineering, socioeconomic context, behavior change and culture
  • five keynote speakers who are leaders in their fields
  • an outstanding Water Prize award banquet in the elegant hall of the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History 
  • optional half-day workshop on social entrepreneurship - using the business model canvas to build sustainable WASH solutions
  • optional half-day workshop on field methods in water and sanitation - manual and hydraulic well-drilling, biosand filter construction, household water treatment systems, and ecolatrine construction
  • the chance to network in small-group settings with practitioners from a dozen developing nations and many other places across the globe.
Participants in the 2011 Conference learn the manual drilling technique used by Water4 Foundation.

Click here for a schedule of events.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dr. Feleke Zewge is awarded NSF PEER grant

Dr. Feleke Zewge is a professor at Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), director of the National Fluorosis Mitigation Project, and a friend of and frequent collaborator with the WaTER Center. He was recently awarded an NSF PEER (Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research) grant to develop, compare, and optimize aluminum oxide based technologies for fluoride removal in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. 

Dr. Feleke (center) converses with colleagues at the 2011 OU International WaTER Conference.

During childhood bone and tooth enamel formation, high levels of fluoride intake will cause the element to substitute for more natural elements and create a more brittle, less flexible bone structure.  Beyond the cosmetic effects and social stigma of dental fluorosis (mottled teeth), which occurs at moderately elevated fluoride levels, skeletal fluorosis is evidenced at higher fluoride levels (>4 mg/L).  Skeletal fluorosis can reduce agility and mobility, impairing the ability of people to do the manual labor required of subsistence farmers and/or wage earners.  Further, select research has suggested that fluorosis impairs cognitive processes and the ability of children to learn.    Thus, fluorosis mitigation is imperative to health, education and development for the estimated 14 to 16 million Ethiopians exposed to elevated fluoride levels, especially in the Rift Valley. 

This photo shows a typical water treatment system for fluoride mitigation. From right to left can be seen the raw water storage tank, two parallel reactor tanks with filtration media, a concrete reservoir for treated water, and a kiosk for selling / distributing water to villagers.

The PEER project is meant to complement the work already being conducted at the University of Oklahoma (OU) under an NSF grant and will serve to combine technical and social science researchers at both partnering universities in pursuit of sustainable fluoride mitigation solutions. Laboratory adsorption studies on the Al-oxide coated medias (natural zeolites and clays) will be followed by field testing of the most promising materials. Socioeconomic and cultural factors that will influence adoption of the technology will also be assessed in order to promote the long-term sustainability of the solutions. The project award is $114K over a two year period (corresponding to the remainder of OU's NSF grant).

Summer travels in Ethiopia

For three weeks in July and August, Teshome Yami (PhD student) and Dr. Jim Chamberlain (staff research engineer) traveled in Ethiopia. In the larger cities, they met with current and potential partners in fluoride mitigation - including World Vision, CRS, USAID, Adama University, Oromo Self-Help Organization (OSHO), Dr. Feleke Zewge (of the National Fluorosis Mitigation Project office), Addis Ababa University, DfID, and several governmental Ministry officials. 

Two sisters carry water from a raw water point. The water has not yet been treated, but an electrodefluoridation (EDF) system is being planned and is underway at the site.

Dr. Chamberlain and Teshome visit a remote tapstand that delivers water treated using the Nalgonda technique of coagulation and sedimentation (blue elevated tank in the background).
They also spent time visiting small village and remote installations of community-scale systems that are in place to treat excess naturally-occurring fluoride found in the water. Ideal fluoride levels will be in the range of 0.5 - 1.5 mg/l. Many installed water points in the Ethiopian Rift Valley have fluoride levels that reach 4 - 30 mg/l, causing dental fluorosis at low levels and skeletal fluorosis and impairment at higher levels.  Field water quality tests were done at the sights to measure the effectiveness of these interventions.

Teshome measures the fluoride concentration of water collected from one of several water treatment systems in the impacted areas of the Rift Valley.
Dr. Feng Lai, an OU Mechanical Engineering professor, joined the group halfway through the visit. Dr. Lai is working with a local nongovernmental organization near Mojo (OSHO) to help optimize their bone charring process, including increasing the efficiency of the oven and improving the temperature measurements throughout. In addition, OSHO is hoping that Dr. Lai and his students can develop a new mechanical bone-crushing device that reduces the amount of wastage in the size separation process. 

The teeth of smiling children show visible signs of dental fluorosis, a symptom that may foretell a later, more serious condition - skeletal fluorosis and functional impairment.

Dr. Feng Lai is shown standing in front of one of the famous rock-hewn churches in Lalibela. This monolithic church was carved out of a single red volcanic rock sometime during King Lalibela's reign, 12th - 13th centuries.

This mechanical bone-crushing device is used by OSHO to crush charred animal bones into a proper size for water filtration.

Additional photos and information can be found at the travel blog on the OU WaTER Center's Facebook group page.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

SWB Pipe Rally a Smooth Success

Sam Bush, Civil Engineering student and past president of Sooners Without Borders (SWB), had an idea.  Why not set up a series of hydraulic obstacles and get students to race water through it in the fastest, most efficient way possible? The idea germinated and took on a life of its own in the form of the first Sooner Without Borders (SWB) Pipe Rally on Friday, April 26. About 20 students and faculty took part in this inaugural event, under windy conditions (but this is Oklahoma, after all). 

Rachel Rogers and friends channeling water and learning that hydraulics can be fun.
The goal was to "race" the water through the same and get from the source to a needy village as efficiently as possible. Teams raced against each other to begin water through funnel, add pipe of different diameters as needed, and navigate through bends and pipe turns. 

SWB students navigate through bends and turns to get water to a "needy village".

Winners of the Pipe Rally are (left to right) Joseph Wagner, Braden McDorman, and Ben Johnson
Rachel Rogers, current president of SWB, said that the event "teaches about hydraulic priniciples, such as head and friction, but mostly we just wanted to get our (SWB) name out there".  Sooners Without Borders is a service organization on campus that has tackled problems in Guatemala and Bolivia, and is currently working on a small-scale tilapia production system for Haiti, as well as solar pump irrigation in El Salvador. Members have also worked in Uganda with Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe at Saint Monica's Tailoring School for orphaned girls. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day at the Museum

Science in Action Day at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History is a popular spring event that gives children of all ages a "hands-on" experience of science in a variety of forms, shapes and size. This year's day was held on Sunday, February 24, and had 976 visitors!

Visitors were treated to twenty-four different exhibits on Science in Action Day, 2013.

The OU WaTER Center was there with a display on water and sanitation challenges in developing countries. The exhibit featured jerry cans for "carrying practice", ceramic water filters, disinfectant powder and demonstration, a tippy-tap display, and a personal hygiene exercise.
WaTER Center demonstrations included a ceramic water filter, tippy-tap, and demonstration of the PUR sachets for water disinfection.

In addition to the WaTER Center's display, children could bring in their own natural objects, from bones to insects, for object identification and collection “show-and-tell”.  The Oklahoma Wind Power Initiative was there with information about wind energy, including a demonstration of how a wind turbine works. The Museum's Ornithology department provided fun facts about birds and their feathers, such as how feathers enable birds to catch prey, find mates and dive into water. Visitors could learn how to identify bird flight styles by the shape of their wings!  

The WaTER Center table was staffed by OU undergraduate students who have a passion for development work in areas of great need.
The OU WaTER Center exhibit was staffed by students from the service organization, Sooners Without Borders, and from an undergraduate class "Water Technologies for Emerging Regions". Some of these students will go on to work in developing countries, either as professionals or as complementary avocations to their chosen career paths.


Welcome Dr. Robert Dreibelbis!

The OU WaTER Center welcomes its newest faculty member, Dr. Robert Dreibelbis, PhD (International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health).  Consistent with our holistic approach to development, Dr. Dreibelbis will have a joint appointment between the Schools of Anthropology and Civil Engineering and Environmental Science (CEES). His position will add to the rich collaborations already underway among researchers in anthropology, business, and environmental engineering and science
Robert Dreibelbis brings much developing country experience with him to the WaTER Center and to the University of Oklahoma.
The focus of Dr. Dreibelbis's work has been on the social and behavioral aspects of interventions in developing countries.  As a researcher for Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (JHSPH) and the Center for Global Safe Water, Dr. Dreibelbis has been instrumental in spearheading projects and research that connect technology and behavior.  His research interests include ecological sanitation technologies, social marketing approaches of sanitation services, behavioral change strategies relating to hygiene interventions, and school-based sanitation technologies.   
With a passion for teaching and mentoring, Robert draws on a multi-disciplinary background that reflects engineering, epidemiology, microbiology, anthropology, and political science, complimenting his perspective with statistical, survey and qualitative methods of training.  His work has taken him to Kenya, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Peru. He continues to collaborate on exciting work with colleagues at JHSPH and Emory University. He begins work at OU in August of this year.