MU mother-daughter duo receives NSF I-Corps support


The Trauths —mother/ Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Kate and daughter/recent MU Civil and Environmental Engineering Department alumna Ginny — recently received a National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps grant to support development of an improved method of storm-water redistribution. Photo by Amy Parris.

For land developers looking for a more efficient, cost-effective method of managing storm water, a mother-daughter duo from the University of Missouri College of Engineering soon will have just what they’re looking for.

The Trauths — mother/ Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Kate and daughter/recent MU Civil and Environmental Engineering Department alumna Ginny — recently received a National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps grant to support development of an improved method of storm-water redistribution.

The I-Corps program was created in 2011 to aid scientists and engineers along the path of taking a socially-beneficial scientific discovery from the lab to a commercialized product. Kate Trauth received a patent for her new storm-water redistribution device through her company, Infiltronics Environmental, then decided to apply for the I-Corps program. Kate is President and Founder of Infiltronics Environmental, while Ginny serves as its Chief Technical Officer.

Storm water diverted and away from construction sites reduces pollution and the potential for infrastructure damage by allowing it to soak into the soil and follow a more natural ecological pathway. Environmental regulations often require a method of dealing with storm water for companies in this industry. Systems such as the one patented by Trauth aid this process, which also keeps additional water from creating stress on sewer systems.

The device utilizes specific particulates such as sand and gravel, which are fixed in place in tubes of geotextile fabric frequently used for landscaping. The particulates are located various partitioned compartments to create multiple flow patterns that allow runoff storm water to move into more optimal locations during development and construction projects.

“The idea is to use fluid mechanic principles to slow it down so it has time to infiltrate and spread out,” Kate Trauth explained.

Water running through the system is slowed and moved either directly into the soil or into the next compartment of the device, should the water need to be relocated further away from the site. Currently, the Trauths are utilizing space provided by Allstate Consulting to develop a prototype and further test their device.

“It’s a tubular device. Maybe a square foot of surface area, and a tubular three-to-four foot section. It’d be a modular attachment so you can cover as much area as you need,” Ginny Trauth said. “It’s going to be gravity fed. You have to make sure your earth work is done correctly to place this device into.”

The I-Corps program has provided the Trauths with the opportunity to conduct dozens of interviews with developers, contractors and engineers from around the country to glean information on how to improve their device, gauge industry interest and gather important information before taking the next big steps on the road to commercialization.

“I have this idea and a patent, and (people) will say, ‘Well, that’s great, but is it really going anywhere?’” Kate Trauth said. “This program gives us the ability to talk to people … to go and to visit more people and in different parts of the country with different soils, different regulations.”

“We learn more about what our product needs to do, how it needs to function, how people even go and find these different (storm water removal) methods. You need to remove water, so you look in the manual and see A, B, C — how do we become D?” Ginny Trauth added.

The project also has the added benefit of being a family enterprise. The Trauths said they’ve developed a great working rhythm to go alongside their mother-daughter relationship, which isn’t always easy to do.

“I know that I’m having to let go (of parts of the project), because I tend to be in control,” Kate Trauth said with a laugh. “It’s a good exercise in delegating and knowing that she’s got good sense and a good background and a good education from MU and can take it and run with it.”

“It’s been good. She’s given me a lot of freedom. There’s a task to complete, but she lets me go about it, and if there’s any questions or something comes up, I can talk to her,” Ginny Trauth said. “But she really gives me freedom to get my job done. It’s a good system for us, I think.”



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