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.

Visit from Lehigh's Dr. Arup SenGupta

Dr. Arup K. SenGupta of LeHigh University was on campus on Friday, April 12,  to lead a seminar and meet with students and faculty about his research for adsorption of geogenic contaminants. His passion for bettering the lives of the needy in the developing world is not only expressed in his research, but also in the non-profit that he founded, The Tagore-SenGupta Foundation. Award and prize money that is received from research recognition is generously given to this Foundation to fund its charitable work. 

An adsorption system in Cambodia reduces arsenic concentration from >600 ppb to 5 ppb

As the P.C. Rossin Professor in both the Departments of Civil and Environmental and Chemical Engineering, Dr. SenGupta applies fundamentals of ion exchange science and physical chemistry to develop sustainable environmental processes and materials, from sorbents to hybrid materials to membrane processes. To this end, Dr. SenGupta and colleagues have developed and commercialized an arsenic-selective hybrid nanosorbent, referred to as hybrid anion exchanger or HAIX, which is robust, mechanically strong and reusable. The HAIX material is now in use in five different countries and currently provides arsenic-safe water to over one million people in both the developed and the developing world.

Dr. Arup SenGupta is currently Professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, USA
Recently, anion exchangers dispersed with zirconium oxide nanoparticles have been synthesized and the new sorbent materials are robust, reusable and exhibit higher fluoride removal capacity that others currently in use. Field scale trials are currently being planned. 
An operating arsenic removal system in India, circa 2006
Research such as his show that extra-ordinary opportunities lie ahead in transforming arsenic- and fluoride-inflicted water crisis into sustainable solutions in impoverished regions of the world. Information about Dr. SenGupta's Foundation can be found here

Update on the Fall Conference

The 2013 International WaTER Conference is already shaping up to be a huge success! Oral and poster abstracts are being reviewed and sessions are being formed for a variety of presentation topics, including: market-based solutions, capacity-building in the WASH sector, groundwater and well drilling challenges, geogenic contamination and mitigation, climate change impacts on water resources, role and experience of NGOs, social / behavioral change and assessment, and service-learning projects in developing regions. Participants are expected to attend from at least 15 developing nations, and will share with us their research, experience and rich culture. 
One of the scores of entries submitted in 2012 K12 student art and poster competition

This year's Conference (September 23-25, 2013) will be held at the NCED Conference Center and Hotel, the largest hotel in Oklahoma. Among its many amenities are on-site dining, salon and spa services, and a 60,000 square-foot fitness center (open 24 hours) that boasts a state-of-the-art weight room, basketball and volleyball courts, indoor and outdoor tracks, and aerobics. Because the hotel and Conference sessions are all in the same venue, participants will have ample opportunity to network with their peers, arrange association meetings with members, or gather informally at the outdoor courtyard in the center of the Conference space. 

International travel scholarship recipients (2011 Conference), pictured with Dr. David Sabatini and Ashley Walker of the WaTER Center

The Conference will continue its tradition of K12 student involvement as well, drawing in students via its art and poster competition which was such a hit two years ago. As a bonus, this year's Conference will be attended by Deepika Kurup, the Discovery Education 3M 2012 Top Young Scientist Award winner, a high school student from Nashua, New Hampshire, whose winning project was on increasing the efficiency of oxidation used to disinfect drinking water in developing countries.

To register for the Conference, visit WaTER Conference Registration.