Students make clean drinking water out of thin air

group photo of WOOTA team members
The WOOTA team

Social venture WOOTA (Water Out Of Thin Air) is the 2016 School of Engineering & Applied Science’s annual Engineering Discovery Competition (EDC) and received $20,000 in cash, as well as $5,000 in legal services from Polsinelli for building a device that turns humidity in the air into clean drinking water.

WOOTA homed in on the global water crisis after “a lot of brainstorming and some less-than-stellar ideas,” says Baechle, who is a sophomore in biomedical engineering. “More than 780 million people worldwide lack access to clean water, and 3.4 million deaths result each year from water-related diseases.”

Baechle says the beginning of WOOTA was the realization that there are three dozen countries where more than a quarter of the population lacks access to clean water.

“That, plus the more than 60 percent humidity in those countries, got us thinking, ‘What if the water these people need so desperately is just in the air around them?’”

“Our success really reinvigorated our team’s drive to do whatever we can to further the project,” said WOOTA’s team leader, Kailin Baechle.

Over the coming months, team WOOTA wants to field-test its device in Madagascar, where Olin Business School professor Judi McLean Parks takes a group of social entrepreneurs each year. Nearly 90 percent of the island nation’s rural population lacks access to water, and it also has extremely high, 80 percent humidity all year.

Read the story on FUSE: Water Out of Thin Air wins 2016 Discovery Competition