U.S. High School Students Capture International Water Prize

Sept. 1, 2017
Two U.S. high school students win 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize for project to detect and purify water contaminated with bacteria.

Thorpe and Chang with HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden

Two U.S. high school students – Rachel Chang and Ryan Thorpe of Manhasset, N.Y. – win the world’s most prestigious competition for water-related research for their novel approach to detect and purify water contaminated with bacteria, according to the Water Environment Foundation. Chang and Thorpe were awarded the 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize on August 29 in Stockholm for their project that judges believe could prevent waterborne diseases and expand potable water throughout the world. 

Noting that waterborne diseases cause 3.4 million deaths annually, Chang and Thorpe constructed a system that detects and purifies water contaminated with E. coli., salmonella, cholera and shigella more rapidly and sensitively than conventional methods. Their system reportedly detects as little as one reproductive bacteria colony per liter instantaneously and eliminates bacterial presence in approximately 10 seconds. In contrast, conventional methods have detection limits of up to 1,000 colonies and take one to two days.

“The winners used fundamental science and an eloquent way to address pathogenic bacteria in drinking water," says Victoria Dyring, chair of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize jury. "The project has the potential to revolutionize the future of water quality. The winners displayed exceptional intelligence, enthusiasm and passion for water and human health." 

The Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition is organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute and sponsored by Xylem Inc., and brings together the world’s brightest young scientists to encourage their continued interest in water and the environment, according to WEF. Thousands of students in countries all over the globe participated in competitions for the chance to represent their nation at the international final held during the World Water Week in Stockholm. Teams from 33 countries were represented in the competition. Chang and Thorpe earned the trip by winning the U.S. Stockholm Junior Water Prize in June. In the U.S., the Water Environment Federation and its Member Associations organize the national, state, and regional competitions with support from Xylem Inc.

The prize was awarded to Chang and Thorpe by H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, the Patron of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, and included $15,000.

For more information, visit: www.wef.org

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