Students win challenge to bring clean water to slums of Mumbai, India

May 14, 2009

A team of University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students from a civil engineering class will head to India later this month to share their ideas and plans for helping bring clean water to thousands of residents living in the slums of Mumbai - the same impoverished area that provided the backdrop for the 2009 Oscar Award-winning movie, "Slumdog Millionaire."

The University of Minnesota students, who collaborated with students from the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, are winners of the first-ever Acara Challenge sponsored by the Minnesota-based Acara Institute, a non-profit institute that tackles global problems through sustainable business solutions.

The winning team, named ReachOut Water Solutions, includes:The University of Minnesota students were joined by four teammates at Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay: Vivek Sharma, Bholu Ram Yadav, Shikha Pandey, and Jayendra Jadhav.

"We are proud to represent the University of Minnesota as the winners of this challenge," said Brian Bell, a member of the ReachOut Water Solutions team. "With help from mentors and professors, we were able to combine engineering and business in developing our plan. We are all very excited to have the opportunity to travel to India to begin the process of putting the plan into action."

Seven teams of university and high school students from Minnesota, Illinois and India participated in the Acara Challenge. The teams were assisted by mentors from Honeywell, 3M, Cargill, Medtronic, Siemens, Goodrich and many others United States and Indian organizations. The teams' plans were presented earlier this week before a panel of judges comprised of leading technology and business leaders from the United States, Mexico and India. Judges evaluated the business plans for sustainability, technology feasibility and societal impact.

"It's exciting for students when they can immediately apply what they learn in class, and the competition motivated them to exceed expectations," said civil engineering professor John Gulliver, who taught the class Engineering Design for Sustainable Development in which the University of Minnesota teams developed their plans. "They could make a real difference in people's lives."

With support from Cargill and the Acara Institute, the winning University of Minnesota team is planning to leave on May 26 for a two-week trip to Mumbai where the team will assess the situation, talk with local customers and begin transforming their winning concept into reality.

Their plan addresses issues of water quality and availability for potentially hundreds of thousands of Mumbai residents. When implemented, their program will be housed in the Mumbai's existing Slum Sanitation Program buildings, and use a pre-existing customer base and infrastructure. Their business will combine source water storage with ultraviolet water treatment and a novel distribution system that will supply 50 liters per day of clean, low-cost water to community participants, as well as 10 liters of potable water to pay-per-use customers at a reasonable rate.

"We congratulate the ReachOut team on their outstanding effort," said H.S. Murali, Cargill vice president of corporate plant operations/process technology and one of the Acara Challenge judges. "The team articulated a clear, long-term plan and implementation strategy that made good use of existing infrastructure."

For the students, winning the Acara Challenge is just the first step in the process, said Erin Binder, executive director for the Acara Institute and a business manager at 3M. "The next step is to turn this business plan into a reality," she said.
-end-
For the complete business plan from the University of Minnesota ReachOut Water Solutions team, visit www.it.umn.edu/mumbaiwater. For more information about the Acara Challenge, visit www.acarainstitute.org

University of Minnesota

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