Environmental Engineering


The removal of particles and organics is typically the first step of drinking water treatment. It prepares the water for more efficient treatment by subsequent processes.


The objective is to design and build a process for removal of particles and organics from the water source. The water source will be provided by the host school, UNC Charlotte. The challenge is to see which team can filter the provided water most effectively. 


  • One team per school can compete with a team of up to four undergraduate students.
  • Teams will be given 90 minutes to build and demonstrate the effectiveness of their process.
  • No outside materials can be used. All materials will be provided and have a cost associated with them. Each team will be given a supply kit containing the materials listed below, the supplies that are not used will be subtracted from the systems cost.
  • All of the provided lake water augmented with particulate matter and dissolved organic matter, 1-gallon carboy, must run through the system and be collected into another carboy to be weighed by the judges to determine recovery.
  • Effectiveness will be based on pH, alkalinity, turbidity, UV absorbance at 254 nm, total organic carbon, and total suspended solids.
  • From the treated water, teams must collect a sample into a provided vial for analysis by the judges and collect a sample into a beaker for a visual demonstration. 

Provided Supplies:

Supplies Cost
1-L beaker w/ mixing paddle $1.30
Pipe (2" I.D., 12" long) $0.80
Pipe Stand Free
Mesh to hold filter media Free
Sand $0.30/kg
Gravel $0.10/kg
Anthracite $0.60/kg
Granular activated carbon $3.00/kg
Powered activated carbon $0.80/kg
Ferric chloride $3.00/kg
Aluminum sulfate $4.00/kg
Small beakers for sampling free
Vial for collecting sample for testing free
Carboys free
pH strips $0.20/strip
Sodium bicarbonate $8.00/kg
Acetic acid (as vinegar) $1.50/L
Serological pipettes with aspiration free
Membrane filters $10.00/filter


Duct tape available as needed. Balance and weighing supplies available in the common area. Labels and markers will be available in the common area as well. 


The winning team will have the best efficiency-to-cost ratio.

For absorbance and Turbidity: the score will be based on percent removal of each parameter, for example 90% removal of turbidity gives a score of 9. Two scores for each parameter (turbidity and absorbance) will be averaged.

For pH: if the pH is outside the limits (6-8), the number of points of which it is out of the expected range will be subtracted from the combined score of absorbance and turbidity.

For volume recovered: the water collected after the treatment will be weighted by the judges. The amount of water collected will then be divided by the initial amount of water to get the volume recovered ratio. The volume recovered ratio will be multiplied by the number recovered above.

For cost: To get the efficiency-to-cost ratio the above score will be divided by the cost of the supplies used for the system.