Students develop human-powered pumps in Xylem-sponsored challenge

High school teams build and design irrigation pumps to benefit small-scale farmers


Rochester, NY – Oct. 19, 2017 – Four high school engineering teams (Victor High School, McQuaid Jesuit High School, Honeoye 4-H Robotics Team and Honeoye Falls-Lima High School) were recognized at the Let’s Solve Water Challenge on Oct. 14 for their innovative and efficient water pump designs. Nine FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) teams competed for four prizes in the sixth annual contest sponsored by Xylem Inc., a global water technology leader.

The focus of this year’s challenge was to design and build a portable irrigation pump for small-scale farmers who grow their own food. Many parts of the world do not have access to electricity to power modern irrigation systems.

“Global water issues are important to our business, and we recognize that we must work to address them in a strategic, sustainable and responsible way,” said Ken Napolitano, President, Xylem’s Applied Water Systems business unit. “These students are the future of engineering; the Let’s Solve Water Challenge educates them on critical water needs worldwide and gives them a chance to apply real-world water engineering skills.

The annual competition was held at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, New York, the program’s primary advocate and competition host. Students were challenged to build their pumps with as much recycled/on-hand materials as possible. Students used their engineering skills to manage design constraints and build a product that:

  • Must prime and deliver water with no outside assistance
  • Delivers 2 gallons of water within a five-minute time limit
  • Fits into a 3-foot-by-3-foot-by-3-foot box with only a single stabilization handle allowed to exceed the vertical restriction
  • Can be held by a team member to collect weight

As part of the final competition, each team presented their working pumps and described their development process to a panel of judges that included the following Xylem mentors: Chris Felix, Mechanical Engineer; Paul Ruzicka, Global COE for Residential, Commercial and Waste Water and Chief Engineer; Luca Scollo, Mechanical Engineering Co-op.

Each team was evaluated by the panel of judges on design, time, exertion and pressure, and was awarded prizes totaling $4,000 based on four categories. The winners of this year’s Let’s Solve Water Challenge are:

  • Most elegant design/appearance/presentation: Devil Tech from Victor Senior High School, NY
  • Fastest time to fill up a 2-gallon bucket: SUITS from Honeoye 4-H Robotics Team, NY
  • Fastest prime: IgKNIGHTers from McQuaid Jesuit High School, NY
  • Overall weight (GPM per pound): Cougar Tech from Honeoye Falls-Lima High School, NY

“As a leading global water technology company, Xylem is focused on addressing the world’s most challenging water issues,” said Napolitano. “We’re excited to be involved in the Let’s Solve Water Challenge to enable the next generation of industry professionals to begin working today to solve tomorrow’s water-related issues.”

About Xylem

Xylem (XYL) is a leading global water technology company committed to developing innovative technology solutions to the world’s water challenges. The Company’s products and services move, treat, analyze, monitor and return water to the environment in public utility, industrial, residential and commercial building services, and agricultural settings. With its October 2016 acquisition of Sensus, Xylem added smart metering, network technologies and advanced data analytics for water, gas and electric utilities to its portfolio of solutions. The combined Company’s nearly 16,000 employees bring broad applications expertise with a strong focus on identifying comprehensive, sustainable solutions. Headquartered in Rye Brook, New York, with 2015 revenue of $3.7 billion, Xylem does business in more than 150 countries through a number of market-leading product brands.

The name Xylem is derived from classical Greek and is the tissue that transports water in plants, highlighting the engineering efficiency of our water-centric business by linking it with the best water transportation of all – that which occurs in nature. For more information, please visit us at