I remember seeing The Drinkable Book all over social media one day - A book that was going to revolutionize clean, drinking water. An inexpensive educational tool that also functioned as a water filtration device seemed like one of the most brilliant ideas I have ever heard of. It was one of the reasons why I wanted to become a Civil and Environmental Engineer - I wanted to bring clean, safe water to those in developing countries. Getting the opportunity to work on the thing that made me change my major is life changing. It's my whole three years in Carnegie Mellon summed up to one summer.
First, I traveled to Bangladesh, to experience firsthand the water scarcity and contamination. I traveled all around the country, testing the water, putting it through the drinkable book, to see if The Drinkable Book killed all water pathogens that Bangladesh threw at us. Previously, it was tested with just laboratory grown bacteria, so to see it come to life in Bangladesh where the sewage is dumped in the same water source they drink out of was amazing. With limited laboratory equipment, I carried tiny vials home, and once in the environmental laboratory, I tested for metals, bacteria counts, turbidity, and much more. I found that the metal count was low, and I could increase the amount of silver going through the paper to become more effective. I found that most of the bacteria was killed, but I could improve my reduction rate if I found the optimal amount of silver. I found that turbidity was a huge factor, and I needed to think about pre-filtration systems. I found that agricultural runoff was a huge problem and I needed to brainstorm ways to fix it. I found that the design really did matter – from flat paper to cone paper, the bacterial reduction result was much higher. Even the angle and the volume made a drastic difference. My small list of summer things grew and grew as I became more passionate about fixing everything so this product could be rolled out in Bangladesh.
Having a firsthand experience meant everything. Seeing the people in Bangladesh learn how to use this filtration device taught me so much about market segmentation and the importance of culture adaptation. It gave me a reason to work so hard once back in Pittsburgh – knowing that there were thousands of people, hoping that The Drinkable Book would become a product. While there, I observed people drinking water after filtration and claim it is better than any water they have drank before. I saw the dark, green, mucky water turn clear before my eyes. I sat there as women stated they would write poetry and sell it if it meant getting clean water. I suddenly found a purpose in my research.
This was also an important experience because I realized what I wanted to do in the future. I have always struggled with going abroad and volunteering versus getting a job in the United States near my loved ones using my education. This was the perfect job for me – getting the chance to go abroad and make a difference, but staying in my favorite city Pittsburgh, using my education.
Now, I have decided to continue beyond my Bangladesh trip - moving on as this as my SENIOR HONORS THESIS!