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  • Christina Williams

SIPing for safer water

They’re known as the SIPpers, six first-year undergraduate students at Oregon State University who are all members of that school’s Inventors Enterprise Club.

Team SIP! (Courtesy of the Sip)

The team, a mix of engineering and business students, was moved by problems with water quality as far flung as Flint, Michigan, and as close to home as Portland Public Schools.


“We’re aiming to make a simple, inexpensive device for people to use to test their water regularly at home,” says John McCarthy, an industrial engineering major and SIPper.

The SIP — it stands for simple inexpensive photometer — can detect lead in water through a precipitate chemical reaction.


With all the attention on water quality in communities across the country, The SIP expects to serve a growing market with their invention, which the team is working to further simplify while improving accuracy.


The magic number with lead in the water is 7 parts per billion. At that level, you can’t smell, see, or taste it. The SIP basically uses light and potassium iodide to measure the amount of lead in a sample of water. The result is a low-cost but high profit margin product that is reusable (unlike disposable tests that are currently available) and simple enough to use at home.

As John puts it: “It can help schools, workplaces, and homes avoid possible long term detrimental effects on health by preventing people from unknowingly consuming lead in their water.”

Check out the prototype next week at the InventOR finals in Klamath Falls!

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