Midland Students Invent Smart Sewer Drain to Keep Mosquitos Out, Smelly Gas In

Seven students at H.H. Dow High School in Midland are among 13 teams nationwide to be a finalist in the prestigious Lemelson-MIT program.

The program encourages high school students in innovation and invention to solve real-world problems.

“It’s pretty exciting, we’re at the final stages of this thing,” says Adam Colvin, a science teacher, Dow High School.

It all started a senior Caleb Qui visited Shanghai, China. While there, he noticed that the city was stinky and had an overwhelming number of mosquitos.

“He realized there were two issues, one it makes the big smell bad and there’s a lot of mosquitos and both of those came from the drainage system,” says Colvin.

When Qui returned, he and several other students decided to invent a drain cover to solve the problem… One that blocks the mosquitos from coming in while keeping the smelly gasses inside.

“We call it a smart drain cover because it’s able to sense whether or not raining, and this decide whether or not it needs to open or close,” says Qui.

After some research, the group discovered the problem wasn’t just in China.

Junior Laura Leiti says, “Bay City actually has a sewer system like this. We’ve contacted their municipal manager and she’s expressed interest and encouragement and says that this is something that bay city could definitely implement if it could reduce the odor which comes from these drains.”

However, the team faced some challenges along the way due the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Andrew Zhou says, “We have at least a meeting once a week and we can still purchase things, but the production was kind of slowed down because only one or two of us can work on it at a time.”

The team was so excited about their new idea, they entered it into the prestigious Lemelson-MIT program. And in October, they were announced a finalist and granted $10,000 to make a prototype.

“Honestly, we weren’t really sure if we were going to be finalists at first,” says Qui. “But I think we’re very enthusiastic about out invention and believed in it, so yeah, I guess it took us here and we’ve very grateful for this opportunity.”

Now, the team is working on the finishing touches and plans to present their smart drain cover on Saturday for the mid-term review.

“I think we knew our invention was something that we all felt passionate about, but I think receiving the grant and all of the support along the way has been even more than we anticipated,” says Leiti.

Colvin, the student’s supervisor, says he’s proud of them for their perseverance:

“Passion and inspiration to make this type of project a reality, but also leading it and doing it all on their own.”