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2011 Open Minds competition-CEE student team project: Sustainable Solar Sanitation System

Civil and Environmental Engineering students Chris Donegia and Caroline Smith, have been selected to compete in the prestigious 2011 Open Minds Competition, the acclaimed annual exhibition of cutting-edge innovation sponsored by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA).  Chris and Caroline join Emily Woods (GTRI), Molly Nelson (GTRI) and Laura Kovalchick (GTRI) to form the Georgia Tech team.  This year, 15 student teams were selected to participate in the high profile event.

Open Minds (formerly known as March Madness for the Mind) takes place each year during NCIIA's annual conference, and serves as an opportunity for student teams to demonstrate their products and companies, and to receive local and national media coverage.

Donegia, Smith, Woods, Nelson, and Kovalchick are addressing the issue of sanitation in developing Sustainable Solar Sanitation Systemcountries.  Their project entitled "Sustainable Solar Sanitation System" is the development of a dry latrine system that provides sustainable, affordable, and safe treatment of human waste using the sun’s energy. While some dry (waterless) latrines are already being marketed, a system has yet to be developed that effectively inactivates Ascaris cysts, which present a major health risk to people in communities with inadequate sanitation facilities.

The team is working to create a latrine that captures both solid and liquid wastes, provides space to store solid waste for a specified time, exposes it to concentrated sunlight in order to deactivate and kill all pathogenic organisms, and then uses the deactivated waste as fertilizer in a revenue-generating microenterprise. They have fielded several prototypes in remote areas of Bolivia and, using lessons learned from the field, are currently working to refine the design to make it more robust, effective and profitable.

The exhibition is open to the general public and features an exciting video competition in partnership with Inventors Digest. Open Minds 2011 will be held in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the public exhibition will take place Saturday, March 26, 10:00am-2:00pm.

Additional information about the Sustainable Solar Sanitation System is available on line at:  http://nciia.org/openminds/2011/solarsanitationsystem.  In addition, the student team's video can be viewed on Youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emZQS-D58UI.