Lidija Buchanan, a chemical engineering student, won first place in the Changemaker Challenge with her Engineering Projects In Community Service, or EPICS, project. The team, of which she is currently the sole member, aims to ease one of Phoenix’s food deserts by making fresh produce more accessible. The win earns the project $10,000 for further development and implementation in the community.

Food deserts are areas in which residents do not have access to fresh produce. Phoenix itself has 43 food deserts. The project’s community partner, the Creighton Community Foundation, wants to build a community garden in Phoenix to give its residents access to fresh and local produce.

The goal of the EPICS project is to build and implement a water filtration system for the community garden that can purify 50 gallons of irrigation water per day.

“The filtration system is based on Associate Professor James Beckman’s Dewvaporation technique,” Buchanan says. “The water filtration system will be placed into a community garden, and produce will be grown and distributed from there to local families.”

The Dewvaporation technique is an energy-efficient water desalination technique that uses a cycle of humidification and dehumidification to distill water. Through this process, water is evaporated from its source and produces condensation in the form of dew. 

“It is the first semester of this project and we plan to use the funds to purchase supplies to build the water filtration device,” Buchanan says. “We mainly want to purchase a quality steam generator that will heat up the water for purification to be used in the garden.”

Buchanan has been collaborating with students in the Engineering Club at Madison Highland Prep High School in Phoenix to build the water filtration system. In future semesters, Buchanan hopes to recruit more ASU students to join her team.

“The next step for this project is continuing to build the water filtration system from last semester. It is expected to be completed by the end of the Fall 2020 semester and installed in the community garden by next year,” Buchanan says. “Once the water filtration system and garden are up and running, this project will provide fresh produce to 100 families per year who are located in one of Phoenix’s food deserts.”

The Changemaker Challenge is an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students from all four ASU campuses to receive up to $10,000 to implement their innovative ideas to make a difference in local and global communities.