Class year: 2021
Major: electrical and computer engineering
Challenge: Provide Access to Clean Water
How did you hear about the Grand Challenges Program?
I heard about the program through a few older students I met as part of Engineers Without Borders, who were involved with the program.
Why did you decide to apply for the Grand Challenges program?
I came into the University excited to join the chapter of Engineers Without Borders here, and when I heard about the Grand Challenges program, I thought it was an excellent way to formalize and tie together everything I wanted to do as a member of EWB.
Which of the five “competencies” (research, interdisciplinary, entrepreneurship/innovation, global, service) did you most enjoy completing? Why?
I most enjoyed the global competency. I twice travelled to a K-8 school in Don Juan, Dominican Republic to work on implementing a chlorination system for the school's contaminated water supply. My team and I would stay with local families and spend the days at the school, working on the water system and doing workshops with the students.
Do you think you will want to continue work in the field of your “challenge” after graduation? How?
While I do not think I will continue to work directly in the field of providing access to clean water, I think a lot of the work I do will be inspired by what I did in the Dominican Republic. As an electrical engineer, I'm interested in improving the power infrastructure for communities like Don Juan, which has very poor municipal electricity (which impacts the ability to get clean water).
How did being at the U of R help you to complete this program?
I was able to use a lot of my classes to further my work. The cluster system (Editor’s note: part of the University’s open curriculum) allowed me to take Spanish classes through the first half of undergrad, fulfilling the interdisciplinary competency and allowing me to better connect with the community of Don Juan.
Later, for my image processing class's final project, I chose to develop an algorithm to take pictures of water quality film tests and analyze them for bacterial colonies as an improved method of performing water tests. My senior design project, meanwhile, involves developing a surveying altimeter.
The goal is to create a device that makes it easy to find relative height differences at various points of a water system to make estimates of the water pressure throughout the system.
For you, what is the value of the Grand Challenges program?
On the one hand, I was able to take the work that I already wanted to do and put it into a formal program. In addition, I was able to meet a lot of people with similar aspirations and goals. There were a few presentations at iZone where I presented on my GC work and got to hear about what others were doing and discuss our projects afterwards.
Click here to see Andrew's poster for the University's Undergraduate Research Expo.