Water Out of Thin Air wins 2016 Discovery competition

Social venture WOOTA (Water Out Of Thin Air) is the winner of this year’s School of Engineering & Applied Science’s annual Engineering Discovery Competition (EDC) and will receive $20,000 in cash, as well as $5,000 in legal services from Polsinelli for building a device that turns humidity in the air into clean drinking water.

“Our success really reinvigorated our team’s drive to do whatever we can to further the project,” said WOOTA’s team leader, Kailin Baechle. She and her teammates first heard about the competition from Dennis Mell, professor of practice in Electrical & Systems Engineering, as prospective students. Once enrolled at Washington University, they decided to work on a project together to eventually enter the competition.

“The mission of the Discovery Competition is to promote an entrepreneurial and inventive spirit in our engineering undergraduates,” says Mell, who helped launch the competition in 2013. “We strive to give the participants a taste of what it would be like to launch a startup company from an engineering concept, but at the same time, we encourage them to understand the marketplace so that their inventions evolve into a marketable solution.”

WOOTA homed in on the global water crisis after “a lot of brainstorming and some less-than-stellar ideas,” said Baechle, who is a sophomore in biomedical engineering. “More than 780 million people worldwide lack access to clean water, and 3.4 million deaths result each year from water-related diseases.”

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