Highschoolers win first place in state competition for water purification invention

ATHENS, Ala. - A real world solution to a real world problem, that assignment at Athens High School led to two rising seniors getting first place in a state competition for an invention that could help people worldwide.

Under the guidance of Athens High teacher Michael May, Andrew Ross and Spencer Durm spent weeks on end researching ways to purify water, focusing on countries thousands of miles away.

"1.1 billion people are without clean water in this world, which is 15% of the population," explained Ross. "In central Africa it's the worst because they don't have a stable government but they do have a lot of rainfall so we had to find a way to get that rain and filter it with our system."

Weeks later, their double barrel filtration system was born, and they received first place in the Technology Student Association (TSA) of Alabama conference in Birmingham.

But before they took it down there, they did their due diligence.

"We saw it was actually working and cleaning the water and wanted to know if it was clean enough to drink," said Durm. "So we took our water to the water treatment facility. The iron and manganese levels were low enough to drink and our water was completely drinkable."

Plus, at the competition, they made themselves the guinea pigs to prove it works.

"We even drank the water straight out of our device," said Ross. "It was nasty river water that we put straight in and came out perfectly clean. The judges really liked that."

Both say it gives them a will to continue a career in engineering, and hopefully help others along the way.

"In a country like the United States, everyone has clean water and access to clean water," said Durm. "We don't know what kind of struggle it is to not have clean water and it would be great to help provide that."

The two teens want to take their filtration system to the national competition. But really want to see a company come in and take it to third world countries to help people.