A pair of UBC Okanagan teams are among the five finalists of the B.C. Aquahacking Challenge, conducted by the Okanagan Basin Water Board and Aqua Forum.
The semifinals were held completely online on Saturday featuring 195 university students from across the country. Twenty teams pitched their ideas online, dealing with issues like contaminants in storm water, outdoor water conservation, flood damage and risks, invasive zebra and quagga mussels, and access to potable water in Indigenous communities.
“We are so thrilled about these five teams and about this very successful virtual event,” Aqua Forum chief operating officer Dominique Monchamp said in a press release. “In the space of five days, a completely in-person science fair-style event with close to 100 participants, plus judges, mentors, advisory committee members, sponsors, plus the public, was transformed to be delivered entirely virtually.
“It is truly remarkable. The reality of COVID-19 is devastating, and the commitment of those who helped make the semifinal a success demonstrates our resilience when we come together as a community.”
The two Kelowna teams that advanced to the final were Elite and Hydrodynamic Labs, both of which had to come up with a solution for stormwater contamination. Elite’s solution was a gravity-based filtration system that removes oil, dust and petroleum contaminants from water. Hydrodynamic Labs came up with an engineering solution, adapted to the land contour, to collect debris, waste and sediment as it flows over urban landscape in times of high-water events.
The teams will now compete for $50,000 in seed funding and placement in a start-up incubator to further refine their solution and bring it to market.
The other three finalists are Atlantis (UBC, Victoria and Simon Fraser), Ozero (Sherbrooke, Que.) and Agricultural Decision Support (Victoria and Queen’s).
“Their proposals will make a difference in the Okanagan, helping us address the effects of a growing population and climate change, and the impacts these are having on stormwater, the spread of invasive mussels, and flood risk to our communities,” OBWB executive director Anna Warwick Sears said. “It demonstrates that, although the issues chosen are big here, these are issues across Canada. And we’re hopeful that teams that didn’t make it to the finals will continue to work on their solutions through alternate programs because we need solutions, and passionate and engaged youth are important in this effort.”
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