Inventor: Brian Mason ’03 Th’04, ’05
In many parts of the world, people have to walk or motor miles to collect water. Then they have to boil it to purify it. The process not only consumes time but fuels.
Brian Mason ’03 Th’04, ’05 and four colleagues at IDEO, a design firm in Palo Alto, Calif., came up with a better idea. They invented the “Aquaduct,” a mobile filtration vehicle that makes it possible for people in the developing world to fetch and transport a family’s daily supply of water. By the time riders pedal home, some of the water is already filtered and ready to drink. The rest can be filtered later by stationary cycling.
The idea was so good that it recently won the grand prize in Google’s first Innovate or Die Pedal-Powered Machine Contest, which challenged teams across the country to create pedal-powered solutions to offset climate change. The Aquaduct beat out 101 other entries.
The ingenious bike attaches a peristaltic pump to the pedal crank to draw water from a large tank and filter it into a removable dispenser. Mason says that the project reminded him of Thayer School’s hands-on introductory course. “It was like working on ENGS 21 but in the real world,” he says.
Mason and his teammates donated their $5,000 prize money to KickStart, a nonprofit that develops and markets new low-cost technologies in Africa.
The bike hasn’t yet made it into production, but Mason is hopeful. “We are working to find funding to continue the project, as it needs more development,” he says. “It has received lots of press and excitement from around the world.”
More than 750,000 people have already watched the team’s winning presentation of the Aquaduct on YouTube.
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