tel: +39 320 840 5805.
29 December 2012
tel: +39 320 840 5805.
04 December 2012
The following is an excerpt from the Preface written by Charles M. Vest, NAE President:
The aim of this report is to encourage enhanced richness and relevance of the undergraduate engineering education experience, and thus produce better-prepared and more globally competitive graduates, by providing practical guidance for incorporating real world experience in US engineering programs.
We are excited about the potential of this report to promote awareness and adoption of programs that incorporate real world experiences in engineering education. We believe the report will be useful to both academic and industry professionals interested in engaging and better preparing engineering students for the workplace and for competition in the global economy.
AguaClara was recognized as one of 29 programs that give students the skills to define the forefront of modern science. The hands-on, real world experience AguaClara students and partners have embarked on together has lead to the first feasible municipal-scale water treatment solutions for small communities, bringing clean water to tens of thousands of people who would not have had it before. We are producing the best critical thinkers, designers, and researchers. We are producing talent capable of challenging conventional engineering approaches to solving problems. Our alumni have the skills to change the face of industry.
28 October 2012
12 October 2012
|Advertisement for "talk program" to Nepali engineers|
|World Bank conference venue|
|Abandoned chemical feed pumps at the |
newest Kathmandu plant.
11 October 2012
I then asked the delegates to stand if they drink the tap water from their tap. Seven people stood up. As I looked at who was standing up I realized that most of the people who were standing weren't from South Asia. So I asked everyone who wasn't from South Asia to sit down. The result? Two people remained standing, one from Bangladesh and one from Afghanistan. Given that there are 1.6 billion people living in South Asia, this poll suggests that only a tiny fraction of those 1.6 billion have access to safe drinking water.
At the end of my presentation there were many very good questions and a clear expression of interest in the AguaClara technologies by delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Bhutan. Next step is to create a plan for how to roll out the AguaClara technologies in South Asia.
07 October 2012
16 September 2012
AguaClara is out of the boxIt is no longer the best kept secret. We are receiving requests for designs from more and more countries. It is time to seize the moment. This is our time to make a difference. It is time to create AguaClara Inc. AguaClara is seeking impact investors who will make it possible to open a central office with a staff to begin networking and providing support services for implementation partners. In the coming weeks we will also need to identify the individuals who will provide the skill set, leadership, and experience necessary to establish AguaClara as the drinking water treatment technology of choice.
We've been preparing for this day!I have been dreaming for many years of the day when news about AguaClara would spread globally and more importantly, that rapidly increasing demand for AguaClara technologies would leave us scrambling. My goal was to be as ready as possible for that moment so that AguaClara could scale quickly. Over the years we've had various ideas of how the spread might happen. Given our strong presence in Honduras we explored the possibility that the spread would be regional with an initial focus on Central America. Two years ago during the summer of 2010, I gave a short course at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala and I expected that it would result in the construction of AguaClara plants in Guatemala. Perhaps that short course was premature given that it was a stretch for us to provide adequate detail in our designs. We also didn't have a system in place then to provide technical support for a new partner to build AguaClara facilities. In any case, construction has not yet begun on AguaClara facilities in Guatemala. If we weren't ready in 2010, why do I think we are ready now?
Now we are ready!Here are a few factors that suggest that scale up can begin. 2012 is a year of rapid transition for AguaClara.
- For the first time Honduran towns are paying Agua Para el Pueblo for AguaClara facility designs.
- I was invited to give a presentation to water sector professionals at the World Bank headquarters in Washington this spring.
- Arturo Diaz, subdirector of Agua Para el Pueblo, will be presenting the AguaClara program at the CLOCSAS (Latin American community based water and sanitation) conference in Cuenca, Ecuador next week.
- I was invited to present the AguaClara program at a World Bank conference in South Asia in early October.
- Our designs are now easily accessible.
- AguaClara plant performance data is available in real time.
- Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia is preparing to build an AguaClara plant to serve the campus community and to be a model.
Observation 1: The spread of AguaClara technologies is not going to be based on geographic proximity. The ease of communication and our strong presence on the internet means that the spread of AguaClara will be based on our rich network of connections rather than on geographic proximity.
Conclusion 1: AguaClara should prepare to spread globally and not just regionally.
Observation 2: Publicity about AguaClara is spreading at three levels. In Honduras the word is spreading among towns and cities. The word is spreading at the level of institutions that have the potential to become implementation partners. Finally the word is spreading within the development banks and at the level of policy makers. The AguaClara design server is receiving several requests from new countries every week.
Conclusion 2: The global spread has the potential to happen very quickly.
Observation 3: AguaClara technologies will only be implemented successfully with strong technical support. One of the reasons that AguaClara facilities have not been built outside of Honduras is that infrastructure is expensive and that new implementation partners are not willing to take the risk of adopting a new technology unless there is engineering support and institutional backing.
Conclusion 3: Services that include site specific design customization, capacity building, fabrication methods, certification, and ongoing technical support will be essential if AguaClara technologies are going to be widely adopted. AguaClara Inc. is needed to provide these services.
It is time for the count down!The time to create AguaClara Inc. is now, before the end of 2012. AguaClara Inc. will make it possible for AguaClara technologies to spread globally. It is an opportunity to bring safe drinking water to hundreds of millions using technologies that are sustainable. It is an opportunity for graduates from the Cornell AguaClara program to use their engineering skills to make the world a better place. It is an opportunity to create a new standard for sustainable infrastructure based on simplicity on the other side of complexity.
We need your help to launch AguaClara Inc. We need wisdom. We need money. We need the best people we can assemble. Please contact us with your ideas and connections to help AguaClara Inc. launch successfully.
27 August 2012
19 August 2012
Research challenges for Fall 2012 have been posted on our wiki.
Each semester, the AguaClara team is divided into subteams that tackle the research, design, and development challenges posed in these documents. Quarterly reports on individual pages document each team's progress (i.e., Demo Plant). Check back at mid-semester for updates, or follow our progress on Twitter: @CUAguaClara.
05 August 2012
23 July 2012
Our new SMS-based data reporting program is in its pilot stage in Honduras
Lack of reliable, up-to-date data on critical infrastructure has always been a serious roadblock in the path of development. Anecdotes might make great PR pieces, but ultimately decisions - which program to fund, which technology to employ, which community's technicians need training - are based on data. A dearth of trustworthy data makes planning more difficult and more arbitrary, with unpredictable results.
15 July 2012
08 July 2012
30 June 2012
The Future of the Automated Design Tool
Some years ago, AguaClara program director Monroe Weber-Shirk was asked when the Automated Design Tool would be capable of producing completed designs. He responded by saying it should be "pretty perfect" by revision 10,000. As the future design team leader at the time, I decided the design team would make it well beyond halfway to "pretty perfect" before revision 5,000.
24 June 2012
|Jacobo Nuñez demonstrates the difference between the |
dirty water entering the plant and the safe drinking water
produced by the plant.
Atima marks a transition for the AguaClara program. AguaClara water treatment plants now produce over 100 L/s (more than 3.5 billion liters per year) and serve over 30,000 people. AguaClara is now a significant player in the world of safe drinking water. And AguaClara has technical capabilities that give us an unparalleled opportunity to scale up.
For the last seven years AguaClara has been synonymous with innovation. We've developed a whole suite of technologies and every plant that was built included multiple innovations. We used the power of feedback to drive continual improvements in our technologies and our implementation methods. AguaClara facilities were built at the rate of about 1 per year and even at that pace it was challenging to update our designs to include the new technologies for each new plant. I remember in 2007 when we were designing both Tamara and the retrofit plant at Marcala and the design team clearly stating that designing two plants in one year was too much. Since then the design team has developed amazing scalable design capabilities with our automated design tool. Beginning a few months ago we now maintain a stock of standard designs ready for use by implementation partners.
Atima marks the transition from full focus on technology development to a shared focus on deployment of the AguaClara technologies. Atima will likely be the last AguaClara plant to be built without a stacked rapid sand filter. Of course, innovation and technology development will continue! We have many years of productive research ahead to optimize plant performance and reduce construction costs. But now we have a new focus on taking the technology to scale.
We have an opportunity for a friendly competition between implementation partners. Where will the 9th AguaClara plant be built and who will build it? The 9th plant could be built in Colombia by AguaNova, in Guatemala under supervision of INFOM, in Nicaragua by CARE, In Ethiopia by Bahir Dar University, or in Honduras by Agua Para el Pueblo.
Help us take AguaClara to this new level where we methodically add new implementation partners who can build AguaClara plants.
17 June 2012
- not just a technical model
- not just a governance model
- but a RESEARCH model - where the inclusion of the "real world" accelerates the innovation process
10 June 2012
|Alauca residents visiting their water treatment plant|
"If we continue to deforest our land, then our children will be forced to farm the desert. We have time to overcome the errors that our grandfathers made. They have passed the bill on to us, and it's our turn to pay it. Now, thanks to God, man has given us this technology, this plant. I feel very proud that I've given something good to my children. They will have clean water, treated water."
"...[AguaClara] was a fantastic example of how developmental work should be done. I have tried to get involved with other programs ... , and they really don't measure up both in terms of what the students are providing the communities and in what the students are learning."
- Cornell AguaClara alumniThe magic of AguaClara is seen in the successful operation of the AguaClara facilities in stark contrast with the failures in both high tech conventional plants and low tech multiple stage filtration plants. What is the magic of smart tech, of simplicity on the other side of complexity? What is the underlying magic of our design philosophy? I propose that the AguaClara magic begins with
- empathy for people who live without access to safe drinking water
- a respect for people's desire and capacity to create a better world for their children.
- belief in the the wisdom of a group and the power of collaboration
- humility in understanding that it is a short walk to the edge of knowledge and that our partners (plant operators, communities, Agua Para el Pueblo) bring a complementary wealth of knowledge
AguaClara is a people centered Research, Invent, Design, and Empower (RIDE) cycle. It is this respectful cycle of learning that is so magical.
I welcome your comments on the magic of AguaClara!
03 June 2012
I had never noticed before that the "edge" is right inside knowledge. It really is a short walk to the edge and perhaps the first step towards wisdom is recognizing how close we are to the edge.
The success of the AguaClara program has been in our ability to recognize the edge and then conduct experiments and test new ideas both in the laboratory and at full scale. We discovered that much of conventional wisdom about water treatment technologies is scaffolding built beyond the edge. We stepped back off of that shaky scaffolding and back on to the solid edifice of knowledge and began extending knowledge brick by brick.
In the past 7 years we have added bricks in chemical dosing, flocculation, sedimentation, and filtration. With Agua Para el Pueblo we've also added bricks of knowledge in governance and construction of water treatment plants. As we look ahead to the next 7 years, may we add many more solid bricks!
27 May 2012
|Water on the left was raw water coming into the AguaClara facility. Water on the right is the safe water produced by the plant.|
I've been reflecting that the experts in the development world are often unaware of water quality and the incredible impact that poor water quality has on health and on a community's outlook. Of course, hand washing and sanitation are important. AND safe drinking water is essential. Safe, clear drinking water brings pride to women and to the entire community.
Support AguaClara and help us develop the technologies and the capability to spread sustainable AguaClara plants to more communities!
"Con mucha alegria y satisfacion les informo que la planta en Atima esta funcionanando muy bien, las primeras pruebas fueron exitosas. Desde ayer (Thursday, May 25) a la 1: esta en funcion y la NTU es constante entre 40 y 60 ya que no ha llovido y saliendo menos de 3. Me imagino que las mejoras al diseño estan funcionando."
|Atima plant under construction, April 20, 2012. This 15 L/s plant begin operation on May 25, 2012. The flocculator channels are in the foreground and the 5 sedimentation tanks are in the middle of the photo.|
30,000 people now receive safe clean drinking water from AguaClara plants!
30 March 2012
As expected, Ethiopia proved to be very different from Honduras in so many ways. Some things never change. People still need water; most people don't have access to safe water, and without access to the Cornell/AguaClara technologies there are no good sustainable options for providing safe water to communities. The Bahir Dar water supply manager is considering purchasing a package water treatment plant that is similar to the package plants that Honduran towns acquired in the last 15 years. Those package plants have been a disaster because of their poor design, high demand for electricity, and need for replacement parts that can only be obtained from the manufacturer. In Honduras, 50% of the 20 package plants installed between 2003 and 2008 have already been abandoned.
I was able to present the AguaClara option to faculty at Bahir Dar University, representatives from UNICEF, the regional headquarters of the Water resource and Energy Bureau, and the Bahir Dar water supply manager. There is significant interest in the AguaClara option based on the fact that connections were made quickly once I began presenting the AguaClara technologies.
Ethiopians have already identified the need for technologies that are designed for their context and they have been looking for technologies that they could use to treat the contaminated water sources. This provides an excellent opportunity for Cornell to demonstrate that the Cornell technologies are widely applicable in very different contexts. We have an opportunity to develop a global program providing technologies and capacity building for safe drinking water and the ability to establish Cornell as the leader in this field of growing importance. The most recent estimate is that there are 1.8 billion people who do not have access to safe drinking water.
I propose that Cornell expand our relationship with Bahir Dar University to include the capacity building essential for bringing the AguaClara technologies to Ethiopia. Bahir Dar University would serve as the academic partner and would provide a basis for connections with the relevant government ministries at both the regional and national level. The major hurdle is designing, building, and operating the first AguaClara demonstration plants. The first plants will serve as a demonstration of the technologies and will make it so much easier for Ethiopians to obtain funding for more AguaClara water treatment plant projects.
Developing a network of relationships and building capacity will take time and will require an ongoing relationship between Cornell, Bahir Dar University, and the AguaClara program in Honduras. I anticipate that the funding required for a 3 year program to demonstrate the AguaClara technologies and build the capacity for an ongoing program managed by Ethiopians will be on the order of $1,500,000. This is similar to the funding that we leveraged to develop the program in Honduras.
The program budget would include exchange of graduate students, placement of AguaClara Engineers in Ethiopia, summer salary, travel, exchange between Honduras and Ethiopia, and two AguaClara demonstration plants. One demonstration plant would likely be built in Bahir Dar to treat contaminated well water and the other would perhaps be built in a rural town to treat irrigation water for drinking water.
Funding for safe drinking water in Africa will be much easier to obtain than it has been to obtain funding for developing the AguaClara technologies in Honduras for two reasons. While we were developing the technologies it wasn't possible to obtain adequate funding because few donors believed that what we were proposing to do was possible. Now Cornell has proven technologies that are higher performing than conventional state of the art technologies and thus obtaining funding should be much easier. Secondly, international development funding is focused on Africa and the need for safe drinking water has never been greater.
Scaling up the global engagement of the Cornell AguaClara program is directly in support of President Skorton's call for increased global engagement. The program will engage and expanded number of undergraduates and graduates in a meaningful way and will continue to attract top students to Cornell because none of our peer institutions have comparable programs.
One of the big advantages of building an AguaClara program in Ethiopia is that it will clearly establish that the Cornell AguaClara program has global relevance for solving one of the biggest infrastructure challenges we are facing. I will continue working with Alice Pell and others at Cornell to explore funding options to make this expansion possible.
A few reflections on the Ethiopian Context
Although groundwater and springs are the primary water sources in Ethiopia, there is still an urgent need for sustainable surface water treatment technologies with over 60% of the water sources unsafe to drink. Surface water treatment technologies remove sediment (turbidity) and pathogens from surface water and from ground water that is under the influence of surface water.
There are three types of systems that would benefit from sustainable water treatment in Ethiopia. The first is springs and wells that are contaminated with surface water due to infiltration near the well head or in karst conditions where surface water can flow underground without adequate filtering through aquifer material. An example of this need is the spring that supplies water to Bahir Dar and the wells on the flood plain of Lake Tana that produce highly turbid water during the rainy season.
The second application of AguaClara treatment technologies is to convert irrigation water into safe drinking water. Irrigation is increasingly used in Ethiopia to extend the growing season and enhance crop yields. This provides an opportunity for multiuse water systems. The impoundments created for irrigation water provide a source of surface water that could serve as a water supply with appropriate treatment.
The third application is surface water treatment of streams and rivers that flow year round and that provide excellent water supply sources if treated. There may be a few regions in Ethiopia where surface water streams are perennial and where those streams could be used for community water supplies.
20 February 2012
A recent survey of past and current AguaClara team members shows that AguaClara attracts students for a variety of reasons, ranging from passion for water quality to applying classroom skills in real-world experiences.
In the words of Tori Klug ’14, current Design Team Leader, “AguaClara has given me an opportunity to learn beyond my classes and the normal undergraduate education. It’s an amazing way to make great friends who share similar interests and an awesome way to get involved. I am very passionate about water so it seemed like an excellent combination of what I care about.”
While Klug joined to satisfy her passion for water and become further involved on campus, others join to find fulfillment in their work. William Maher described his participation on AguaClara as “being a part of something meaningful in the Engineering College. I wasn't in love with the engineering school because I don't like the idea of completing assignments that will all end up in the garbage once final grades are submitted, so I thought AguaClara was a productive use of time that wasn't like any other class. The work done by AguaClara has lasting effects.”
A clear example of how AguaClara not only affects the beneficiaries of the water treatment technology but also leaves lasting impressions on the team members comes from Ted Segal, an AguaClara alum. After his Cornell graduation, Segal worked in the field of high-end technical design and engineering. He commented that while “the work was technically challenging, the social aspects of the projects were not satisfying. The work I did with Aguaclara made me think carefully about the social aspects of the work that I do. I went back for my PhD so that I can pursue work that I really care about.”
While researching with AguaClara provides a learning experience beyond the traditional lecture course, being a memberopens students’ eyes to the human side of the global water crisis. According to graduate John Erickson, AguaClara taught him “the people of Honduras are very smart, talented and dedicated yet do not have the resources available for clean water. When provided the opportunity they are highly engaged to fix the community. Working with AguaClara helped me better understand the developmental problems these communities face.” As AguaClara continues to grow, members continue pushing the limits of design and innovation. Members always strive to “Do Good Work and Do It Often.”
by Monica Kuroki
15 February 2012
AguaClara attracts a variety of students every semester, who each come and leave with unique experiences. When asked about their experience with AguaClara at Cornell, alumni offered insight into what the program personally meant to them and how it has influenced the courses of their lives.
Although Cornell’s diverse AguaClara alumni have ventured into various fields since participating in the program, they seem to have a consensus of opinion. Of those interviewed, all expressed an appreciation for AguaClara and the positive influence it had on their time at Cornell as well as their perspective on life and work.
To Alissa Dimnich, who spent her first few semesters on the design team and her last as a student team leader, AguaClara was unique because “you and your team’s decisions affected real life situation ... It’s not your standard textbook problem solving.” Dimnich now works with GHD, an engineering consulting firm, in Cazenovia, NY, mostly on wastewater treatment plant upgrade projects.
Other alumni may not have continued specifically with water related work, but AguaClara’s influence can still be seen in their lives.
Peter Crysdale, who graduated in 2006, worked on AutoCAD modeling and contributed to design. For Crysdale, the annual trip to the Honduras was the highlight of his experience with AguaClara. There, the project was no longer “theoretical or technical;” it was “a project that actually related to the real world, that had practical, lasting implications.” He learned about the culture of the Honduras and the daily needs of the people, which is a crucial part of the program’s success because the water treatment plants are individually designed for the communities that will be using them for years to come.
AguaClara worked its influence further into Crysdale’s life after graduation, encouraging him to spend three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, West Africa, where he worked primarily on agriculture projects.
AguaClara’s not-for-profit nature appeals to those who appreciate the opportunity to simply help others. Patrick Farnham, who started working with AguaClara in the fall of 2009 and continued until the fall of 2012, found that the trip to Honduras put him in perspective for his upcoming move to New York for work. Knowing he was soon headed to work for a multinational environmental engineering firm, Farnham took the trip as time to remind himself not to become “unhealthily absorbed into the for-profit world for the rest of [his] life.”
The program has seen many faces come and go, but no matter where AguaClara’s former students have found themselves, they say working on AguaClara’s program has influenced their perspectives tremendously. Alumni look back with favorable eyes, appreciating the chance to work on “solving a problem over the course of entire semesters, years, and in some cases, probably lifetimes.”
by Grace Seo