Students create mobile water source through DesignSpine curriculum

Students from the University of Indianapolis’ R.B. Annis School of Engineering were able to create a mobile water source for Citizens Energy Group that can dispense clean drinking water to nearly 5,000 people in its first month usage, according to Citizens Energy Group’s website.  

This version of the project was the full-scale version of the mobile water source made from a trailer, according to junior software engineering major Alexander Pruitt, who is the team leader.

“It’s basically two tanks in a trailer that you can fill up with water or you can run a continuous system through it,” Pruitt said “If you connect it to a fire hydrant, and it can run water through it, it can hold… 500 gallons…. If you put ice in the cooling system, you can get cold water out.”

The project and partnership began two years ago with the Citizens Energy Group’s Partnership for Excellence in Research and Learning Program, where they partnered with different universities for projects such as the water source, according to Associate Dean of the R.B. Annis School of Engineering Jose R. Sanchez.  Citizens was requesting a mobile water source with a few qualities.

“They wanted to create a system that would, one, allow them to show the people of the Indianapolis area the quality of the water, how it’s an educational tool for them,” Sanchez said “They can talk about safety, quality, and then at the same token, it has a green quality to it.”

The students were then tasked with creating a small model of the water wagon, which can be found on the first floor of Martin Hall. The students needed to figure out if they could get the water to the right temperature and also get the right water flow consistency that Citizens was requesting, according to Sanchez. The students then went to Citizens to present the finished product.

“We went to Citizens two years ago and they presented in front of the VP of engineering, some civil engineers, marketing people and industry people, sophomore students,” Sanchez said. “[It was] really great… and they were very impressed. So we came back and did a second version of the class project, where we bought a trailer and we retrofitted to the needs of citizens.”

According to Pruitt, he was in charge of organizing, meeting with Citizens, and designing most of the internal plumbing and the cooling system for the water source. There were only four members of the team tasked with creating this system, one of them being junior mechanical engineering major Jonathan Key, who was in charge of cutting out the filling stations and retrofitting them into the trailer. He also helped with installing the cooling systems. He said he learned how to work as a team in difficult circumstances, having to reach out to others to gain knowledge and resources and relaying back to the client why they couldn’t do something that they wanted.

As a sophomore at the time, it was a very large project to handle, Key said, but in the end he found it to be incredibly rewarding.

The water source can be used at larger scale events like sporting events and different community events around Indianapolis to reduce the amount of single use plastic water bottles being used, according to Key.

The R.B. Annis SOE’s DesignSpine curriculum program led to a partnership with Citizens Energy Group to create the #H20toGo mobile water source. The program begins when engineering students come in as freshmen and continues until they graduate, according to Sanchez. The curriculum teaches students a wide variety of different things, according to Sanchez.

“The DesignSpine is nothing more than a sequence of courses where we get students from different disciplines working together to solve challenges,” Sanchez said. “Our goal is for us to have external stakeholders as part of the process.”