Anybody can have a great idea, and even the simplest of ideas can make a difference to people’s lives. Especially when those ideas might provide inexpensive and sustainable solutions to global challenges.
Sami Sayegh, a 21-year-old student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, had such an idea.
Thinking back to his schooldays in the United Arab Emirates, he recalled a desert survival technique used by travelling Bedouin tribesmen. They would collect dew each morning from a water-resistant tarpaulin, enough for a litre or two of water to drink. Sami wanted to find a way to use the same technique but on a much larger scale to benefit communities with little access to clean water.
He worked on the idea with fellow students Charles Gedeon and Al-Hurr Al-Dalli of nearby Concordia University. Together, they submitted it to Shell Ideas360, a global competition for university students to develop ideas for tackling energy, food and water issues.
They call their idea Skywell. It consists of a large sail with a water-resistant coating that condenses moisture in the air into droplets of water. The water trickles down the sail into a funnel where it is filtered and ready to drink. The idea is simple, sustainable and inexpensive. A single sail with an area of 42 square metres (452 square feet) might produce as much as 84 litres (22 US gallons) of water a day.