Students identify novel approaches to address chronic dehydration in Sri Lanka

Nearly 40 inquisitive university students from several universities converged upon UNSW's Michael Crouch Innovation Centre in July to identify novel approaches to address chronic dehydration in Sri Lanka.

The H2Go Clean Water Hackathon, run by ANSTO in partnership with UNSW-GWI, is part of an ongoing collaboration between ANSTO and a Sri Lankan Presidential Taskforce to investigate Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Cause (CKDu), a major public health issue in the country. Dehydration, along with associated concerns about the quality of ground and surface water, are areas of concern in the development of this often fatal disease.

Across three days, participants at the sold-out event heard expert presentations from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ANSTO, UNSW and Isle Utilities. Students then worked in small teams under the guidance of skilled mentors to develop potential solutions, build prototypes, develop business models for their products, and finally pitch their ideas to a judging panel. Pitches were evaluated on the uniqueness, sustainability, and ease of implementing the proposed solution, the quality of the prototype, and the innovation demonstrated in the pitch itself.

The panel featured Dr Adi Paterson, CEO of ANSTO, Professor Greg Leslie, Acting Director of the Global Water Institute, and Mr Lal Wickrematunga, the Sri Lankan Consul-General in Sydney, along with senior ANSTO staff.

Ultimately, two teams were named joint winners of the Hackathon. In addition to receiving a cash prize, they will now have the opportunity to work with ANSTO’s expert human health and environmental researchers to integrate and further develop their solution, which will be presented to the Sri Lankan President’s office when the ANSTO team next travel to Sri Lanka in December 2018.

Both solutions proposed great economic and sustainability models as well as means of empowering the communities to build, commission and maintain the use of these  solutions well into the future.

About the winners:

  • The first winning group proposed a social enterprise solution, likened to ‘uber for water’, where farmers could deliver water from a centralised treatment plant coming from a deep tube well to households on their way home from the markets.
  • The other winning group developed an incredibly cheap portable water treatment device for farmers to use while they are out working in the field, and within their respective households for family use.


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