Catching up with 2017 Fulcrum Award Winner: Project Tap In

With a call for “Raising Consciousness, Tipping the Balance,” the 2017 Southface Fulcrum Awards recognized the programs, people, buildings, movements and organizations that demonstrate excellence in pursing Southface’s vision: a regenerative economy, responsible resource use and social equity through a healthy built environment for all. The second annual awards were held in March at Southface’s Greenprints Conference, and as we approach the third annual Fulcrum Awards, we decided to check in with the past three winners to see how they’ve improved.

Project Tap In began a student-led, citizen-science project at The New School Atlanta. Fifteen 10th grade students recognized consumers’ preference to drink bottled water over tap water and its prolific environmental impact. They knew that there was significant data to justify that our municipal water supply was safe to drink with regularity, but questioned the relative access to information for the average citizen to make informed decisions about their consumption. They developed a plan to make water safety data more robust and accessible, and started encouraging their fellow students to submit water safety testing data to a shared database. Because of its uniqueness and ingenuity, our jury panel created an entire new award category, dubbed the “Next Generation” award specifically for Project Tap In.

The students performed the work under the supervision of Ashley Rutland and James Watson with The New School Atlanta and project adviser Susan Davis, Executive Director of Improve International.

We caught up with Susan to see how Project Tap In has progressed since the Fulcrum awards.

How has Project Tap In improved since the beginning of the year? Have the students added anything new to the project?

Since the Fulcrum Awards, we have tightened up our curriculum to expand into other schools in the Atlanta area. As of September 2017, we had four other Atlanta schools (public and private) who are interested in implementing their own Project Tap In. We also explored partnership with the Community Engineering Corps – an alliance of Engineers Without Borders-USA, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and American Water Works Association (AWWA). Everyone agreed that Project Tap In is a very impressive initiative, especially being led by high school students. AWWA may be interested in supporting the project locally through connections with the AWWA Georgia section, particularly to finesse and foster the message on education of safe drinking water.

Describe how the impact from the project still resonates today.

Recent major disasters that affect the quantity and quality of water available in the United States (e.g., Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria) have highlighted the fact that we can’t take our water for granted. The goals of Project Tap In are still relevant – to empower and educate students about their water quality and ideally get some of them interested in water as a profession. We expect the impact to only grow as we expand to additional schools.

What did the multimedia campaign for Project Tap In entail?

This is still in development as we develop our outreach program to other schools. The website is http://projecttapin.com.

How can people make better decisions about water at consumer and service provider levels?

We are very fortunate in the United States to have systems, regulations and trained professionals who keep our water safe, affordable and really convenient (taps everywhere!). Water quality testing should enforce our trust in the system, and on the rare occasions when there are problems, water users and providers can only benefit from having more information.

What’s next for you, your team and/or your project?

The New School plans to transition leadership to one of the 11th year students (who focus on entrepreneurship projects). This is still volunteer managed. I will continue supporting the project with strategic and technical guidance, submitting proposals for funds and joining meetings with prospective schools. We are still actively seeking funding to support development of curriculum in line with Georgia science standards and professional management of the program as it expands, as well as partner schools to pilot the curriculum. Please contact sdavis@improveinternational.org for more information on this.

The winning projects of the inaugural Fulcrum Awards continue to have a rippling effect on their project teams and communities around them. Since 1998, Greenprints has been a highly anticipated gathering for the latest thinking on regional issues surrounding sustainability – both as the policy level and in practice. The conference facilitates conversations between researchers and on-the-ground practitioners that promote sustainable buildings and communities. Southface looks forward to the next group of inspiring projects that will demonstrate excellence in pursing Southface’s vision: a regenerative economy, responsible resources use and social equity through a healthy built environment for all. Save the date for the 2018 Greenprints conference: March 12 – 14. We are in the process of crafting great curriculum and can’t wait to celebrate Greenprints’s 20th birthday.

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