Team Triumphs With Clean-Water Technology
Solar-Powered Purification System Chosen as Energy Challenge Finalist

A UT Dallas-Texas Christian University student team has won one of the top prizes in an international competition to design a solar-powered water-purification system for use in Third World countries.

The International Future Energy Challenge sought not only to enlist undergraduate teams to improve upon current technology but also to call attention to the 900 million people worldwide who lack safe drinking water.

“I liked working on this project because of what I was learning,” said Matthew McCann, an electrical engineering major in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas. “Being a freshman at the time of design and construction, I didn’t have much knowledge or experience working with most of the components. Working on this gave me hands-on experience that complemented what I was learning in my classes. I’ve gained experience in my major, and it’s made me love engineering even more.”

For practical reasons, the UT Dallas-TCU team emphasized a simple, low-cost design.

“Most of the other teams competing were sponsored by companies that paid for parts and travel, but everything we used was purchased out of the Renewable Energy and Vehicular Technology Lab’s account, so one of our main goals was to keep the cost down,” he said. “This also tied into the competition guidelines because the idea was to allow countries that don’t have access to clean drinking water the means to get it. We also designed our microcontroller board and circuit board, and the other teams used prefabricated boards.”

The UT Dallas and TCU group were awarded the Undergraduate Educational Impact Award for their project at the competition finals last week in Rio de Janeiro. Sponsored by the Power Electronics, Power & Energy and Industrial Electronics Societies of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the finals included 13  teams from nine countries.

“One of the major activities of any IEEE society is to challenge students and prepare them to become the next generation of leaders and scientists of the world,” said Tomy Sebastian of the Industrial Electronics Society.

And the results of the competition may well lead to the production of low-cost equipment that can be spread “all over the world and help humanity as a whole,” said Dr. João Pinto, general chair of the competition.

Water-treatment technology powered by solar panels is not novel, but the competition guidelines required students to create a system that did not use batteries, demanding “creative solutions to address the challenge of operating under power restrictions.”

“I would like to congratulate our team of undergraduate students and in particular Matthew McCann who has spent the past seven months, relentlessly, getting our team prepared for the finals,” said Dr. Babak Fahimi, professor of electrical engineering and director of the Renewable Energy and Vehicular Technology Lab.

At the competition in Rio de Janeiro last week were (from left) UT Dallas student Matthew McCann, the competition’s general chair João Pinto, TCU faculty member Morgan Kiani and TCU student Brian Preskitt.


Energy Challenge Team

The full team participating in the International Future Energy Challenge consisted of:


        Aliya Anis Omar Argon Michael Arrambide Claudia Berumen Chris Caicedo Eric Guzman Monica Hennen Meagan Kelso Menying Luo Matthew McCann David McMasterKene Nwanko Quincy Obioha Domola Olodro Brian Preskitt Melissa Reinsch Chris Rhynes Bora Shkurti Joon Sohn Pei Wang   (graduate advisor) Pourya Shamsi   (graduate advisor)    

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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