Sip It

Engineering students from UBC Okanagan have won a $20,000 prize for creating a backpack-sized water filtration system that could be used in disaster-struck areas.

Youthful Kelowna creators of a backpack-sized water filtration system won top prize Tuesday in a competition that aims to find engineering solutions to pressing water-related problems.

Engineering students from UBC Okanagan won $20,000 to bring their invention, which is designed to produce clean water in adverse conditions for up to 128 weeks, to the commercial market.

The prize was awarded by organizers of the AquaHacking 2021- Western Canadian Challenge, hosted by the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

Twenty-one teams with members from as far away as Japan, Qatar, and Russia competed in the challenge, which was conducted online.

The UBCO team, consisting of Yosamin Esanullah, Elena Wood, Mana Tokuni, Yamen Shaheb, and Sarah Adelaja, used carbon and membrane filters to create their mobile filtration system.

The device, dubbed the 'SIP Backpack', can clean one litre of contaminated water in five minutes, the students say. It's designed to get rid of bacteria, parasites, sediment, and micro-plastic, and reduce odours, they say.

"It is a solution ideally built for remote communities to address drinking water contamination," states a UBCO press release.

Other applications could be in disaster-struck areas, and it might eventually be for sale in outfitter stores for backwoods enthusiasts.

The AquaHacking Challenge, promoted nationally by a non-profit grope called AquaAction, engages young Canadians in developing entrepreneurial skills and creating tech solutions to freshwater issues.

Since 2015, eight challenges have been held in various locations across Canada, with prize money resulting in 28 start-up companies that are still active today.