The Western Kentucky University Mechanical Engineering program partnered with ASME to host an Open Source student design project to develop a prototype water purification device in 2008. The project was funded by an ASME grant and is part of a continuing initiative by ASME to extend the relevance of their annual Student Design Competitions (SDC) and link student projects to societal concerns. The Open Source Project extended the 2007 SDC which required students to design and construct human-powered devices to purify water. The design challenge was inspired by Hurricane Katrina-like temporary disasters, but also addresses one of the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges for Engineering: provide access to clean water. Affordable and practical solutions are needed to provide drinkable water to people who do not have the equipment, power or other resources necessary to assure safe water supplies. During the spring and early summer of 2008, five students from various SDC teams qualifying for the 2007 SDC finals used their competition experience to develop a new design for a human powered water purification system. Team members were distributed at universities from Sweden to Venezuela to New Mexico, and therefore interacted via internet and teleconferences to refine the design. Ongoing work was posted to the ASME website, allowing people external to the team a chance to critique or contribute to the design. The team met at WKU in May to construct and test a prototype of the design. The initial prototype was able to purify water at 10 times the rate of any SDC devices, using a combination of passive sand filtration, solar heat collection and mechanical friction heating. While this was a marked improvement, the reality is that the human effort to purify this water is still excessive. The second generation prototype was completed by faculty, staff and students at WKU during the 2009 summer with the information learned and experiences gained from the initial prototype of the distributed team. This paper will discuss the evolution of the project design from the SDC to through the second prototype and the impact of the open source approach to the design process. The project represents ASME’s first attempt at executing an “Open Source” project, providing a forum for mechanical engineers around the world to contribute to solutions of critical social, economic and environmental problems. If the final design proves technically feasible, the Open Source team will seek support from the ASME Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation to commercialize the design.

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