A bench-top educational system, the Adaptive Water Treatment for Education and Research (WaTER) Laboratory, has been developed as part of a year-long capstone design project. The Adaptive WaTER Lab teaches students about the effectiveness of various water purification techniques. Stackable housings employ six different filtration and purification methods including: sediment filtration, carbon filtration, chemical disinfection, reverse osmosis, forward osmosis, and ultraviolet light disinfection. Filtration pressure is supplied by a hand or foot pump, and two rechargeable batteries are required for the UV sterilization unit. The advantages and limitations of each technique are investigated, with learning performance criteria measured by knowledge of: material costs, contaminant removal or neutralization capabilities (from large sediment to bacteria and viruses to chemicals), robustness and longevity, and power requirements and efficiencies. Finally, suitable combinations of treatment techniques are studied for specific contamination issues, with the ultimate goal of producing potable water. The importance of sustainable water use is also discussed. Background information and suggested experiments are introduced through accompanying educational packets. This system has had a successful impact on undergraduate education. The metrics of success include a published journal article, an awarded EPA P3 educational grant and a pending patent for the undergraduates involved in the development of the Lab. Other undergraduates are currently involved in a design for manufacturability study. Finally, the Lab has served as a demonstration tool in a new interdisciplinary engineering course “Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development.” The Adaptive WaTER Lab has also been used in hands-on outreach to over 300 underrepresented K-12 students in the Houston area. Two high school students borrowed the original prototype of the Lab to use in an Earth Day demonstration, and one student recently worked on an individual project using the Lab. Because the Lab is portable and requires only human and solar power (to recharge the batteries via a solar backpack), it is also ideal for educational efforts in developing nations. Labs are currently being produced for outreach and donation via three international projects to install water purification systems and/or educational Labs in schools and clinics in Mexico, Lesotho and Swaziland, in collaboration with the Beyond Traditional Borders and Rice 360 health initiatives.

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