ASU Students Invent Air-Filtration System for Mongolian Yurts

After learning that coal smoke is compromising the health of families in Mongolia, a team of ASU engineering students developed a practical, solar-powered solution and then made the organizational connections to deploy it.

More than 6,000 miles away, Shamsher Warudkar read an article in the bulletin of the World Health Organization stating that approximately 83,000 people living in Ulaanbaatar’s Ger Districts — located on the hills and mountains surrounding the city — are disconnected from the city’s gas utility system. Additionally, a UNICEF report said the lung function of children born and raised in Ulaanbaatar is only 40 percent compared to their rural counterparts.

Warudkar, an ASU aerospace engineering student, asked Prof. Jared Schoepf, director of ASU’s Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program, what could be done to help. The EPICS program at ASU consists of approximately 550 students whose goal is to design, build and deploy systems to solve engineering-based, real-world problems centered around four themes: community development, education, health and sustainability.

“Students work with a community partner to define the problem,” said Schoepf, adding that EPICS teams are currently working on 70 different projects. “Rather than assuming the problem and the best solution for the community, the students complete a needs assessment where they work with the community to define the user needs and engineering design requirements.”

The nine-member EPICS team got together and began by breaking the project down into two parts: the problem and user needs — which, in this case, were electrification and filtration. Because electricity isn’t available to families living in the yurts, and Ulaanbaatar receives, on average, more than 290 days of sun per year, powering an air-filtration system with solar panels became the clear choice.

The work took the name Project Koyash, after the Mongolian god of the sun. With their innovation validated after extensive testing, team leader Bryan Yavari reached out to the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families, which operates in the area. The team also collaborated with the Mongolian Consulate, and 12 more air-filtration systems were shipped to Mongolia.

Yavari is currently collaborating on a research project with pediatricians to determine the impact their solution is having on the children’s lives. “It makes such a big difference in those children’s developmental stages for the families that are there,” he said. “It can help extend and save lives.”

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About Julie Coleman

Julie Coleman is a contributing writer for Frontdoors Media and helps individuals, families and businesses maximize the impact of their philanthropy.
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