Contest Challenges AZ High Schoolers To Solve State's Water Problems

May 24, 2021

Water is critical to Arizona's future, and the state's three public universities are challenging high school students to propose solutions for the water problems communities face around the state.

The engineering departments at Arizona State, Northern Arizona and University of Arizona have joined forces for Challenge 2021, a competition for teams of high school juniors and seniors to identify and address water-related problems in Arizona with virtual engineering strategies.

Jennifer Velez - outreach and recruitment program coordinator and senior at the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University - said they chose water because of its importance to people living in a desert climate.

"We all use water, we all rely on water, but we may not know a whole lot about where that water comes from," said Velez. "What does it take to get that water from its source to our home?"

Velez said high school juniors and seniors can register online as part of a team of two to five students - or can sign up on their own and be placed on a team.

Each student must register individually. The signup deadline is June 1.

Velez said the challenge was started last year, when competing teams were asked for solutions to return students safely to classes after the COVID-19 pandemic. The universities have found the challenge a good way to interest top students in engineering.

"We've always touted engineering for social good as a reason to pursue engineering," said Velez. "That it's not just about math and science, it's about actually having an impact. And engineering is a way, a very concrete way, that you can go out and do something for your community, for the world."

Velez added the competition is also a good way for Arizona students to check out each of the three engineering schools, and vice versa.

"Because this is all three state public universities, this is a very unique opportunity for students to see what all three institutions have to offer," said Velez. "Getting involved in this challenge means that you're going to get to interact with faculty, staff and engineering students at all three institutions."

The challenge is scheduled for June 15 through 18. The winners will be announced June 21.

There's a $50 registration fee for each participant. Final team solutions will be critiqued by a panel of professional judges.