On September 24, students, mentors and speakers gathered (virtually of course) to learn about water, Xylem, and the exciting challenges crafted for students to “hack on” during the inaugural Xylem Reach High School Hackathon to Solve Water. In total, 100 students registered to participate in the hackathon event, including students from the US, Ghana, Armenia, Egypt and Australia. The students are competing for over $5,000 in prizes.

The High School Hackathon to Solve Water is part of a larger Xylem Initiative called Xylem Ignite, launched in August 2020. Xylem Ignite is a global initiative that seeks to build a strong network of passionate student leaders and empower them to drive real changes in the water industry. Through a series of activities from hackathons to an Incubator Program, this initiative is creating a movement to enroll, ignite and nurture the next generation of water leaders.

Xylem Ignite Project Leader, Delph Mak, explained her inspiration for creating this program, “We believe in the power of young people to change the world. With a digital-savvy generation that is passionate about sustainability issues joining forces with us to solve water challenges, we can certainly accelerate innovation breakthroughs.”

“We believe in the power of young people to change the world.”

Delph Mak – Xylem Ignite Project Leader

Jose Suarez, the Xylem Solve Hackathon Project Leader, kicked off the event with an introduction to Xylem and a review of the Hackathon logistics. Jose and his team described the three challenge statements for the students to work to solve over the weekend, they are:

  • Challenge 1 – How to Improve Use and Maintenance of Rural Handwashing Stations (introduction by AmeriCares)
  • Challenge 2 – Smart Water System 3D Mapping (introduction by Joseph Rogers)
  • Challenge 3 – Improving Water Access in Rural Communities (introduction by Tyler Elkins)   

An exciting feature of the High School Hackathon to Solve Water is Xylem’s collaboration with Amazon Web Services. Mitchell Hensley, Vice President of Xylem Software Strategy and Product Architecture at Xylem, expressed that the partnership gave high school hackers the ability to trial new technologies and that “having access to both new technologies and the support from the AWS teams for mentoring & guidance gives our (hackers) the support they need to do their best work, in a short amount of time.”

Five judges gathered on Sunday morning to review and score the 15 student submissions. Most projects were coded in python and java, and students experimented with GoogleEarth API, a variety of AWS applications, and even virtual reality! The judges selected seven finalist projects and winners of the High School Hackathon will be announced live during the closing keynote panel on Wednesday, October 14.