How do you get your water? You probably have a water fountain nearby and the tap at home or even a water bottle in your hands right now. Now, imagine having to walk many miles carrying gallons of water out of sheer necessity?
Unfortunately, for some impoverished communities in third world countries, this is a reality they know all too well. Many have learned to live with the uncertainty of clean water and the task of collecting it. A group of FIU Honors College students are working to change that.
Social Entrepreneurship, a course offered by the Honors College, challenges students to create a unique project to tackle a pressing social problem of the students’ choice. After noting the seriousness of water cleanliness, Paula Perez, a junior mechanical engineering student, and her fellow team members — Andrew Bowyer, a mechanical engineering undergrad; Paula Perez, mechanical engineering undergraduate; Daniela Cadena, an international business grad student; and Gianfranco Colombi, a mechanical engineer undergrad — wanted to do something about it.
As a result, the SWEET roller was born. SWEET stands for Sterilized Water Energy Efficient Transport. The roller is a 75-liter container designed to provide efficient water transport and purify the water as it is transported. As users utilize the roller, the movement creates kinetic energy, which then transforms into rotational energy as the roller moves. A small generator within the roller then transforms that energy into electrical energy that powers what is known as a UV-C LED array that kills pathogens in the water.
The SWEET team is confident that this will have a tremendous impact on communities and have started a startup. Just one SWEET roller would cover the basic drinking, cooking and hygiene needs of five people, replace four trips to and from water sources, and save a family thousands of hours a year that could be dedicated to work or education.
To test how the roller would impact these communities, Perez and Bowyer, went directly to the source. The two embarked on a journey to Colombia to study the Wayyu tribe. The Wayuu tribe is located in La Guajira, Northern Colombia, a location of particular interest to the team because of the water insecurity in the region. They spent one week with the community.