Public Engagement Fellow inspires children to take up science

17 April 2014

Public Engagement Fellow inspires children to take up science

Dr Anita Meldrum

It was an idea that had all five investors on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den in agreement for the first time. Each offered investment to develop a water purification system that could help the developing world tackle disease and its high mortality rates.

The innovative pitch was a device called Midomo, by James Brown and Amanda Jones from Red Button Design. It was in fact finally funded by a grant from Oxford University which offered the duo £45,000 and full control of the business following the programme.

Midomo is a water transport and purification machine that harnesses the rotation of bicycle wheels and an internal filter system to transform harmful water into drinkable water on the go, which, since its first appearance on Dragon’s Den in 2007, has been successfully integrated into communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

Now consultant Dr Anita Meldrum, who was drafted in by GCU’s development office at the time to advise the social enterprise company on the best technology to use, has taken on a new project as an advocate of the life-saving Midomo.

As an ambassador of the work of designer James Brown and its co-founder and marketer Amanda Jones, Dr Meldrum hopes to inspire the next generation of scientists by speaking to children and young people about the project and its impact in communities and on peoples’ lives.

Reaching out to more than 1000 children at a recent Glasgow Science Centre event organised by Glasgow City of Science, Dr Meldrum, in her role as a public engagement fellow, says the project fascinates people.

Midomo_Image

She explains: “Science is really important for kids. We would not be healthy, not live as long, nor would we have the life that we have if it wasn’t for science. The people who find out how things work change lives. It is about getting young people into science and engineering and, in particular, showing them how simple ideas can transform lives around the world.”

A Chemical Engineer, Dr Meldrum has more than 20 years’ experience in the water industry, design and project management of international water and wastewater treatment projects, having worked in the Middle East. She has spent time working with companies such as British Gas, Motorola and Yorkshire Water before moving into academia to teach.

“Water is the natural sink, everything ends up in water,” she said. “If a substance goes up into the air, it comes back down in the rain, or if it seeps into the ground it will go into the underground water system and then into the ocean systems.

“In the developing world there is often a hard choice between building the infrastructure to grow the local economy or the infrastructure to improve public health. Sadly, the choice is often that countries continue to neglect investment in water treatment and sanitation systems and the consequence is that people will continue to die.”

“In my experience the simplest things are often the most effective.”

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