A group of young Peninsula designers who just wanted to have fun creating a new bicycle ended up making a funky-looking device that could help solve a health issue plaguing 1.1 billion people across the world.
Team Aquaduct, a five-member Peninsula squad consisting of design professionals from the Palo Alto– and San Francisco-based firm Ideo, created a bike in 2½ weeks that provides clean drinking water using only renewable energy.
Here’s how the Aquaduct bike works: Someone pedals the blue, tricycle-like machine to a water source such as a pond and fills a 20-gallon tank in the back of the bike. While riding back, the pedaling powers the water through a filtration device in the middle of the bike, and the filtered water is deposited in a two-gallon tank in front of the handlebars.
Last week, the bike won Google’s “Innovate or Die Pedal-Powered Machine Contest,” which challenged 102 teams across the country to create a pedal-powered solution to offset climate change.
Now, the team is receiving interest from water-filter manufacturers and other groups that want to expand the prototype on a wider scale, and more than 520,000 people have viewed its YouTube video demonstration.
Mack is one of four twentysomethings in the group, joined by 44-year-old John Lai, of San Bruno. Working and living on the Peninsula and in Silicon Valley meant the group already started with the “spirit of invention,” Lai said. The environmental awareness the team experiences on an everyday basis in the Bay Area also gave it an advantage in the competition, he said.
The group originally kicked around ideas inspired by local events, said member Brian Mason, 26, of Menlo Park. The team discussed a pedal-powered oil skimmer in light of the Cosco Busan spill and a pedal-powered water-transport device that could have helped combat the recent Southern California wildfires, he said.
The group is donating its prize money to KickStart International, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that specializes in developing new technologies.
“We can see a business model where individual entrepreneurs could use the bike to sell clean water door to door in the developing world,” KickStart development Director Ken Weimar said.
By the numbers
» 1.1 billion: People without clean drinking water worldwide
» 101: Groups Team Aquaduct defeated
» 20: Gallons the rear tank can hold
» 2: Gallons of filtered water the front tank can hold
» $5,000: Team Aquaduct’s prize for winning
» 50 cents: Monthly cost to maintain bike’s filter
» 2½: Weeks spent on project
Source: Team Aquaduct, contest officials