UF Engineering Student Pitches Sustainable Solutions at United Nations Conference

In Department of Environmental Engineering and Sciences, Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and Environment, News

Jenny Olmsted at UN conference

Jenny Olmsted at UN conference

A University of Florida engineering student was one of six people chosen to speak at a United Nations conference in Washington, DC.

Jenny at United Nations

Jenny Olmsted, a 22-year-old environmental engineering senior, presented her proposal at the Students Seeking Solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) conference. SGDs are a collection of 17 global goals identified by the United Nations that include a broad range of global prevalent issues including poverty, climate change, gender equality and other social and economic concerns.

This year, the conference focused on sustainable development, specifically for clean water and sanitation. Olmsted pitched her design and implementation ideas for a fully purifying, all-inclusive 3-D printed water filter. 

The filter, she said, comes in two phases. Phase one utilizes the technologies of activated carbon and xylem filtration to remove sediments, chemicals and some bacteria, she said. Phase two, she said, utilizes flow solar thermal disinfection and UV radiation to remove any remaining bacteria and viruses.

Olmsted said she got the idea in October of 2017 when her supervisor at the Institute for Excellence in Engineering Education (IE3) asked her to craft a way to relate 3-D printing to environmental engineering. Since then, she said she cultivated ideas for the project itself through mindfulness, observing her surroundings and reviewing research projects.

“I think my niche is that there is no current projects out there that actually have a solid cradle to grave plan of water filtration and getting the filter to parts in the world who need it,” she said.

The IE3 facilities, housed in UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, became her undergraduate research lab space to test and design parts for her innovation. Pamela Dickrell, associate director for education at IE3, said Olmsted originally joined the institute to help with solid modeling software in a new first-year design course. Through her involvement, Olmsted sought to combine her technical skills with her personal interest of engineering solutions for a broader purpose.

“Jenny is very self-motivated and worked hard researching technologies to combine with her ideas,” Dickrell said. “I was beyond excited and proud when I heard the news Jenny was chosen to speak at this event.”

IE3, which specializes in engineering education research and innovative hands-on instructional methods, supported Olmsted’s travel to the United Nations headquarters because of the global importance of clean water technologies.

“She is a very bright and driven young engineer,” she said. “She deserves the recognition and the opportunity to share her creative ideas on clean water with the world.”

As for the future, Olmsted said she is going to take the great feedback from the conference and move forward on her ideas with an open mind.

“This is surely not the end, but the beginning,” she said.