Civil Engineering graduate students get ready to take clean drinking-water technology to San Francisco in competition for the Hult Prize

Thursday, February 22, 2018 | By Amelia Pitt-Brooke Pitt-Brooke
Team of UBC Civil Engineering graduate students compete for prestigious Hult Prize.

An interdisciplinary team of UBC students is ready to take their drinking water technology case one step closer to the $1 million Hult Prize. Rajat Jain, Jatin Maheshwary, and Karan Grover have joined forces to create a business case for the drinking water technology developed under the supervision of Civil Engineering professor Pierre Bérubé. Their entry to the Canada-West round of the competition was the winner selected from fifteen other teams of BC university students.

The Hult Prize launched in 2009 as a way to encourage social enterprise as a solution to some of the world’s most pressing problems. It is awarded to innovative, promising start-ups emerging from universities, as a means of launching them into business and helping them scale. The Hult Prize has been referred to as “the Nobel Prize for students.”

For their entry into the competition, Rajat, Jatin, and Karan have created a business case for a clean drinking water technology developed at UBC Civil Engineering under the supervision of Professor Pierre Bérubé. The team has designed a plan to commercialize gravity-powered, bacteria-supported drinking water filtration, designed as a low-cost, low-maintenance solution for smaller and rural communities who lack safe, clean drinking water.

Rajat, a second-year MASc student working under Professor Bérubé, wanted to put together a team that bridged disciplines for the best possible outcome of the project. He recruited a fellow Civil Engineering student, Jatin Maheshwary, from the Project and Construction Management group, and Karan Grover, a computer science student with knowledge in business plans, marketing, and implementation. The three complementary skill sets brought the group to success in the Canada-West round of the Hult Prize. As the successful team in the Canada-West round of the competition, Rajat, Jatin, and Karan will be travelling to San Francisco from March 9 to 11 to compete in the Regional Finals, one of approximately fifteen such competitions taking place worldwide. The winner from that competition will go on to the third round, which consists of a two-month immersive experience taking place in the United Kingdom this summer. The winner of the United Kingdom round, finally, will compete in the world finals with the ultimate goal being to win the $1 million seed fund with which to launch their business.

The initiative shown by Rajat, Jatin, and Karan is a demonstration of what is possible when students connect with each other beyond their disciplines at UBC. They recognized the importance of collaborating across disciplines to achieve the best possible outcome, and they put that awareness into action to explore the social enterprise potential of UBC Civil Engineering research. Their advancement to the regional finals is a major success in itself, and an exciting step closer to the $1 million Hult Prize.

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