Clean water courtesy of West

Davenport West Invent team has big plans for Kenya water project


Photo published with permission from Jason Franzenburg

Members of the Davenport West Invent Team are devoting their time before, during and after school to creating a water filtration system for the African village of Muamba.

Tori Dierikx, Reporter

8,133 miles away, there is a village in Kenya that lacks what many of us take for granted ‒ clean water. This daunting and very real issue was brought to the Davenport West Invent team by Joshua Ngao, a resident of Muamba who believed the seemingly impossible task could be tackled by Davenport West students.

“We’re specifically working with a village named Muamba, but there are four other villages we are also partnering with. The challenge is that we have to make water filters for these villages out of indigenous materials,” senior Alexa Christiansen said.

Over a year into the project, the current team has worked to develop a better and more impactful solution by investing many hours into the Kenya water project, and investing many hours into the people of Muamba.

“We are doing [the project] for a good cause. From last year to now we’ve made good progress. We picked up from where they left off last year, and we are coming up with good solutions,” senior Huy Tran said.

It is hard to deny that the team has made progress when they have received the $10,000 Lemelson- MIT Program Grant. Davenport West Invent team competed against high schools throughout the country, and was one of 35 finalists. MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) does not just hand these grants out. Students have to earn the money by presenting a solution to a real-world problem.

“This is our second time getting this grant. This is one of the biggest design challenges in the country from the most prestigious engineering school in the world, so it’s a great honor. [MIT] knew that we could pull off a project of this caliber,” lead facilitator teacher of the project Jason Franzenburg said.

The incredible progress the team has made does not just end with figuring out a solution. The team has big plans for implementing the filter in Kenya, and continuing their research for years to come.

“This project is going to go on for another few years after [the current team] is gone. We want to deploy a filter by the end of [the school year] to have one there that’s safe, reliable, and that we can get true testing date from. Next year students will see what we’ve done, take the data, and make it even better,” Christiansen said.

The Kenya water project has come a long way from the start, and more improvements are continuing to be made constantly. Technical lead of the project senior Danny Cao explained just how far this project has come.

“Last year’s team just worked on a specific type of filter for the Kenya project. We felt it was a little rushed, so we backed up a little to take time and evaluate what our possible solutions were, and we decided we should redesign this whole process.”

The difference between the past version(s) of the project as well as the difference between the Davenport West Invent Team’s solution and other’s is what makes this project so impressive and special.

“What I think is unique about us is we’re going to implement. Once we’re done with testing by years end, all of our plans will go to Kenya and they will build [the filter] there, and they will test it and we’ll get data back, and we’ll modify what we need to modify,” Franzenburg said.

Members of the team are faced with substantial responsibilities to upkeep this massive project.

“Right now I’m helping to figure out different tests and different water procedures to [calculate] what water characteristics are in the water that we can test before and after we send it to the filter, and also I help construct the filter and make prototypes,” senior Dalton Carstens explains.

Responsibilities such as those of Carsten’s are entirely different than an everyday vocabulary list or math equation.

By taking action, these students will be bettering the lives of civilians on another continent. Not only did it take the best and the brightest not only of Davenport West, but also of the country to receive the grant and to create a solution for clean water. Big steps are to be taken, and high hopes of success surround Davenport West and Muamba.

“It’s a very real possibility that we get our design in and it spreads throughout Kenya. It’s a big responsibility too, but our students are up for it. We’re committed to it. I think that’s what separates us from the rest is our implementation plan and our commitment,” Franzenburg said.