Last month, 17 high school students from the Natural Science and Technology Center, a Toledo Public Schools Career Tech Program, came to the Chemical Engineering Unit-Ops Laboratory in Nitschke Hall to learn about water quality and purification systems.
Megan Davidson, a second-year chemical engineering student, taught the students about the engineering aspects of different water purification systems to get them started in thinking about how they can use both water and energy in a more responsible way.Davidson has been a strong advocate for water purification since starting at UT. Her interest was initially piqued when she went to Guatemala in 2015 to build a home for a family in need.
“I was warned not to drink the water or even eat any food that had been washed in the water because it could make me sick,” Davidson said. “The idea that people are getting diarrhea and are malnourished because of the water they drink always struck me as a great injustice.”
In her freshman orientation class, Davidson had the opportunity to learn about the ultraviolet water purification system made by Clean Water for the World and was surprised by the simplicity of the system. She then became involved with Walk for Water, an organization that raises money for water purification units and spreads awareness of the conditions of the water in developing countries.
This year, Davidson served as the educational outreach director for Walk for Water; she helped develop a lesson plan for seventh- and eighth-grade presentations, which covered a wide range of related topics.
“We wanted to tie in green energy to the presentations to give students more to think about and help them understand that all of the world’s resources are connected,” Davidson said. “We were able to reach out to about 1,200 students in 20 different schools.”
During spring break this year, Davidson was invited to go to El Salvador with a group of chemical and environmental engineering students to visit various communities and assess their water situation. They surveyed people’s overall health and their use of and accessibility to clean water.
If the community did not have a water purification unit, the UT students installed one of nine units they had brought and taught the people how it works and how to clean and replace parts as needed. For the communities that already had a unit, they recorded the maintenance of the system and took a list of needed parts to keep it operational.
“I was very excited to be able to see the units in action and to understand firsthand the impact they are making in peoples’ lives,” Davidson said. “It was fantastic to be able to see everything come full circle, from building and researching improvements that can be made to the units to fundraising through Walk for Water to finally installing the units and being able to talk to the people who are now able to drink clean water.”
Davidson is passionate about water purification projects and plans to stay involved with them in the future. She is considering spending time in Central America to address water problems after she graduates.
“I think it is important for people to understand that all waterways are connected. The water we have in the U.S. is clean and safe to drink because we have installed plants to treat water that is not safe,” Davidson said. “Not everyone is fortunate enough to have government-funded systems and are stuck drinking water with chemicals, viruses, bacteria and even feces in it every single day. If we care about others, and not just the people we see every day, but people we share water with across the world, we need to be aware that there are things we can do to help those in need.”