HydroSense, a team of seven students from across the University of Washington, won first place and $10,000 in the inaugural UW Environmental Innovation Challenge on April 1, 2009.
The team won for their practical solution of tracking water usage in the home. When attached to a faucet, the HydroSense product can calculate real-time water flow, infer the specific source of use such as the toilet, shower, etc., and, detect leaks.
According to research provided by the team, a 15% reduction in water usage across U.S. households would save an estimated 2.7 billion gallons per day and more than $2 billion in consumer costs. Given its potential impact, a low-cost, practical solution to monitor water consumption in the home made perfect “HydroSense” to the 78 judges.
“We’ve seen a tipping point in the United States from a financially-driven bottom line to a triple bottom line; or what my company refers to as the triple win: customer, society and investor,” said judge Maury Costantini, Jr., solutions sales manager for Siemens Building Technologies. “That was on full display today. I’m encouraged by the students’ compassion to improve the human condition and excited by their innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.”
Sustainable solutions come to life
To win the $10,000 grand prize, HydroSense beat out 15 other teams representing five colleges from around Washington State. Students came from a variety of disciplines including business, computer science, engineering and urban planning. Each team was tasked with developing a viable product to reduce environmental impacts and improve ecological sustainability.
Second place and $5,000 went to Nanocel, for technology that cools electronic devices using a convective flow of fluid within a small plastic heat sink. Three honorable mention prizes of $2,500 went to Wind20 (production of potable water using wind energy), Ecowell (vending machines to refill drinking containers) and InTheWorks (marine engine emission reduction).
Challenge, a cross-campus collaboration
The challenge was conceived of by Ellen Lettvin, UW Applied Physics Laboratory, and Connie Bourassa-Shaw, Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Foster School of Business. As the Challenge took shape and the Center offered an “Environmental Innovation Practicum” course, momentum for the Challenge spread across the UW campus and garnered financial support from the College of Engineering, the College of the Environment and a host of corporate sponsors.