Student - June 7, 2012

VHL students in water competition

They were in the middle of their final project when they decided to go to South Africa for three weeks. For a competition with case studies, pitches and a large conference. In early May, VHL students Fleur van den Bos and Louise Klingen participated in the Wetskills Challenge in Cape Town.

Louise and her team with their poster. Her teammate is showing the dropkit.
'The first weekend was for team-building', says Louise. 'We got to know eleven South African and nine other Dutch students.' The high point was a walk through the sewers. 'We had a field trip about water in the city in which we walked through the sewers for an hour and a half, among the cockroaches', says Fleur with a hint of irony. She did not really mind but it could have been shorter, as far as she was concerned.
After the team-building it was time to set to work. The students worked on cases related to Dutch water companies in South Africa. Fleur and Louise were placed in different teams, and spent a week working on their case. The result was a poster and a 100-second pitch that they had to present at a large conference.
Fleur worked on a commission for Groot Salland Water Board. 'Many undesirable plants grow around certain rivers. It costs money to keep these areas clear and to remove the waste. We had to think of a way to turn this into a money-making situation.'
In the end, the team came up with 'dry digestion'. The waste is deposited in a concrete storage facility and left there to be digested by bacteria. At the same time, a biogas is produced that the local people can use to generate electricity. The plant remains can be used as compost. Louise worked for the Dutch NGO Wegwijs on ways to reduce household water wastage.
Louise worked for the Dutch organization Weg-wise on ways of cutting water wastage in homes. 'Weg-wise had a couple of technical tricks up their sleeve for that, which we decided to support with an educational programme for secondary schoolchildren. We want to stimulate young people to save water. In concrete terms, we make a dropkit, a package with a plug, a stopwatch and a sticker to go next to the tap.'
Wetskills is a real competition and the five teams really competed for the prize. Neither Fleur nor Louise came out top but that's neither here nor there to them. What counts more is the client's opinion. The Water Board was quite amazed by the new ideas proposed by Fleur's group. 'One of the supervisors will be pitching the idea in the Netherlands. I've no idea where this will lead, but it shows that we are on to something.'  Louise was struck by how openly the companies treated the students. 'What really surprised me was that they actually sought us out to make the first contact. It is usually the other way round.' NM