Three Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Student Teams Earn Top Honors for Entrepreneurial Ideas

Class of ’51 Entrepreneurship Award Supports Innovation in Testing Water for Bacteria, Designing a Portable Water Filtration System, and Creating a Woodchip Heater.

Student creativity and entrepreneurial thinking for detecting bacteria in water, the development of a portable water filtration system, and a revolutionary approach to designing a low-cost, high-efficiency biomass home heating source have received funding from the Rensselaer Class of ’51 Entrepreneurship Fund. The fund was established to help transform undergraduate and graduate student ideas into successful ventures. The competition is sponsored by the Office of Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

One of the most active, generous, and supportive alumni groups at Rensselaer, the Class of ’51 sponsors an annual competition to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue early development of entrepreneurial ideas. A grant of up to $5,000 is awarded each year to a winning individual or teams.

Dripdrop Bacteria Detection

Rensselaer undergraduate students Nathan Pankowsky ’13 and James Davis ’12 earned the top spot and were awarded $2,500 for their innovative technology and entrepreneurial approach to creating a system for quickly and effectively testing water for bacteria such as coliform, fecal coliform, and E.coli.

The Dripdrop system utilizes proprietary software, hardware, and processes to enable farmers and municipal and industrial water treatment facilities to track and test water quality in real-time to avoid the slow, time-consuming, and expensive method of sending samples to a lab and waiting for results. The team hopes that the system will enable users to test continually and respond immediately to changing conditions so that water contamination can be detected and corrected.

Pankowsky and Davis, who are dual majors in mechanical engineering and design, innovation and society, have developed the software, created a prototype system, completed preliminary testing, and researched markets for the system.

Portable Water Filtration System (PWF)

A cross-functional, undergraduate student team earned the second place spot based on their development of a portable trailer and pump system that works in combination to transport and decontaminate water. The system is designed to provide a safe and efficient method for people who are living in developing nations with scarce and distant water supplies, as a way to avoid contaminated water-related illnesses.

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Team members include: Nathaniel MacDonald ’13, a mechanical engineering major; Philip Maas ’13, an electrical engineering major; Rosemarie Mastropolo ’13, a biomedical engineering major; Cole George ’13, an electrical engineering major; and Alexander Roumanidakis ’13, an aeronautical engineering major. The team was selected for a $1,500 award toward the further development of their innovation. This team has also evolved their idea through concept, CAD design, engineering drawings, operational prototype, and a user’s manual.

The trailer can be easily attached to any bicycle or pulled by hand. The system is driven by a peristaltic pump that receives its power from a chain and sprocket system that connects the pump shaft to the axle of the trailer. While being transported, source water is pumped through filters from a receiving tank to remove contaminants and travels to a clean water tank for safe use.

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