The Design and Creation of a Solar Powered Trail Water System

By: Tarini N.
Year: 2022
School: El Toro High
Grade:  9
Science Teacher: Nicole Muilenburg

Hiking is a popular activity for millions of people each year, but it can also be dangerous. Dehydration is one of the leading causes of death among hikers on trails. To address this issue, Tarini, a junior ranger in 32 National Parks, set out to create a Trail Water System that would provide hikers with a reliable source of clean water.

Tarini’s project consisted of five distinct parts: market research, design and manufacturing of a filter, creating and coding of a sensor unit to determine water quality, product testing using nine different types of water, and cost analysis of the system.

Tarini began by surveying several US National Parks to confirm the need for her project. She received 30 responses that confirmed dehydration is a major issue for hikers. To address this issue, Tarini designed and manufactured a Trail Water System that pumps water from a stream and filters it using a carbon/silver filter that uses backwashing to clean itself, eliminating the need for periodic maintenance or replacement.

To ensure the water was safe to drink, Tarini also created a turbidity sensor circuit and coded it to measure the clarity and voltage of the water, indicating whether it was “good” or “bad”. She tested her sensor unit with a breadboard and then created a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) for the connections to make it more permanent. The entire Trail Water System is solar powered, making it a reliable source of water for hikers during their journey.

Tarini’s prototype can pump and filter the water at 200 gallons per hour, and testing confirmed that the water was as clean as bottled water. However, she discovered that the backwashing system was not effective enough due to the speed of the pump. To backwash properly, a more powerful pump (at least 250-300 gallons per hour) is required. She also tested her prototype on a local trail multiple times to confirm its viability.

Tarini’s Trail Water System is a reliable solution to the problem of dehydration among hikers on trails. It is also cost-effective, and National Parks have expressed interest in adopting the system. In the future, Tarini plans to manufacture a more reliable backwashing system and create a more robust outer casing to protect the system from wildlife. She also plans to apply for a patent for her Trail Water System, as she believes it has the potential to save lives.

Tarini’s project demonstrates the importance of science in addressing real-world problems. Her dedication to protecting the parks and the people who visit them is an inspiration to others, and her Trail Water System has the potential to make a significant impact in the lives of hikers.