A University of Washington team this week claimed top prize in the first 3D4D Challenge, an international contest to use 3-D printing for social benefit in the developing world. The three undergraduates won $100,000 to form a company that will work with partners in Oaxaca, Mexico, to build machines that can transform waste plastic into composting toilets and pieces for rainwater harvesting systems.
Matthew Rogge, a post-baccalaureate mechanical engineering student who presented the project in London, was inspired by years spent working in the Peace Corps.
He began teaching chemistry and physics in Ghana, but ended up spending more than six years building water and irrigation systems in Ghana, Panama and Bolivia.
“We built drilling equipment for our own well, and then built our own pump out of plastic,” Rogge said. “There were a lot of parts that took a fair amount of skill to make.”