Sugar Land student’s water recycling system finalist in MIT competition

Mehaa Amirthalingam, 17, a student at Sugar Land, is one of 10 finalists in HP’s Girls Save the World challenge.

High school senior William B Travis said her goal was to create a product that would save every household in the world water by using gray water instead of fresh water for flushing the toilet.

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Solv program[ED] Youth Challenge, HP Girls Save the World is for girls aged 13-18. Participants must propose a sustainable solution to an environmental problem in their community.

Mehaa built and installed the invention, named “Arya”, in the master bathroom of her own home. She started working on her idea nearly four years ago, going through several iterations, refining and testing the design until it worked effectively. She decided to enter Arya in the competition in November 2021.

“I heard about the competition by chance through social media,” Mehaa said. “But I had been working on my project since the summer of 9th grade. I worked with my mentor. I continued to perfect it, to determine the optimal flow rate, to carry out all the specific measurements and calibrations.

Technology company HP is offering a $50,000 prize to provide resources for environmental change in different communities.

In an average American household, toilets account for up to 40% of water consumption, Mehaa said.

“My father told me that our water bill had gone down exponentially,” Mehaa said. “There is so much water that collects in the shower. It is reused daily with about four to five flushes… We save a good part of our water bill.

“Grey water” is lightly used water from sinks, baths, showers and laundry, i.e. all domestic flows, with the exception of waste water from toilets.

Mehaa started by collecting water from the shower and examining its quality, testing how long it could be kept without spoiling. She set out to acquire tubing, a pump, a buffer tank and a massive 50 gallon Italian pickle bin to build her recycling system.

“What were the purge requirements, when should I start draining greywater – I did all the research,” Mehaa said.

Mehaa said she chose the name “Arya” for the classical Indian mathematician and astronomer Aryabhata.

“Aryabhata was the first mathematician, and my gray water recycling system is the first of its kind, so I named Arya,” Mehaa said.

Operating at the intersection of global climate change and gender concerns, the Girls Save the World competition aims to create a sense of agency and inspire girls to be problem solvers using technology. Entries were submitted by 64 teams from 26 countries, and the ten most practical and scalable ideas were chosen as finalists for the top prize.

Finalists will win the grand prize of $10,000 from the $50,000 prize pool, plus additional micro-grants and HP technology packages.

Mehaa said she would use the HP funding to file for a patent and start reaching out to manufacturers and policy makers.

“People in California are especially attached to my idea,” Mehaa said, “California is one of the first states to experience a major water crisis. idea to the public and start implementing the gray water recycling system in the model homes.

When asked what advice she had for girls who might find a STEM career daunting, Mehaa replied:

“Define your idea and pitch it to someone you think will listen to you. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to hear your ideas. Don’t be intimidated by your small size or how little you feel about the situation. In my opinion, if you help a person or a family, you make a difference.

Mehaa and her father, from Chennai, India, believe the water recycling system could benefit the flood- and drought-prone city.

“In Chennai, there are apartment complexes that use greywater for garden irrigation, but it is not used efficiently,” she said. “Grey water collected is often wasted. So we talked to builders and contractors, I guess, to spark that discussion and pitch my idea to those people. »

Mehaa lives in Sugar Land with her parents. Her older sister is a senior at Stanford. Mehaa plans to study mechanical engineering at Berkely.

The winner or winning team of the Girls Save the World completion will be announced later this week.

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Rachel J. Bradford