17th annual Ricoh Sustainable Development Award winner recognized for water purification systems made from local plants
Ricoh USA, Inc. today announced Muhil Thendral of Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, Md. is the winner of the 17th annual Ricoh Sustainable Development Award (RSDA) presented at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (Regeneron ISEF). The 10th-grade student was awarded a $10,000 scholarship for his winning invention, “Making Removal of Chemical Contaminants in Drinking Water Affordable and Available Anywhere and Everywhere.”
The RSDA honors students who develop innovations that bolster environmental sustainability and embody the values of Ricoh’s longstanding global commitment to pursue excellence, improve quality of life, and drive sustainability in support of the Ricoh Group’s Founding Principles and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Globally, one in three people—over 2.2 billion—do not have access to safe drinking water, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Thendral’s innovation, a methodology for a low-cost, easily reproducible way to purify drinking water, tackles this deadly problem with a focus on developing parts of the world. His research explores how the purification properties of activated carbon, the key absorbent of many modern water purification systems, can be replicated using high temperatures and locally available plants. His analysis and findings establish that water purification in developing countries can be accomplished through a simple methodology using affordable and readily available materials to create activated carbon for water filtration, thereby improving the quality of water humans consume worldwide.
“We are proud to recognize and celebrate brilliant student innovators like Muhil who share values that align with Ricoh’s enduring commitment to people and the planet—an important cornerstone of the Ricoh Way,” said Donna Venable, Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Deputy General Manager, Shared Services, Ricoh North America. “Through the RSDA, we champion student research that improves human lives, supports environmental responsibility, and furthers sustainable development. The inspiring work of these students will not only help protect our planet, but also inspire action and spark the sort of change needed for our world to flourish for many years to come.”
Thendral won the RSDA at Regeneron ISEF, the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Owned and produced by the Society for Science, Regeneron ISEF provides a platform for the best and brightest young scientists to showcase their science, technology, engineering, or math research. This year, 1,750 finalists from nearly 400 society-affiliate local, regional, state, or national science fairs from 63 countries, regions, and territories competed for $8 million in awards, prizes, and scholarships.
Finalists’ projects were evaluated on the benefit they’d bring to business value and environmental sustainability, and alignment to Ricoh’s Sustainable Environmental Management Pillars. Judging criteria included project novelty, readiness, development, cost efficiency, global applicability, and creativity. Students were also evaluated on their willingness to learn new things and ability to overcome obstacles.
“During my recent visit to India, I saw first-hand how people suffer from a lack of clean drinking water. That was my motivation for this project,” said Thendral. “I’m honored to receive this recognition and support from Ricoh. It gives me the confidence to continue doing this work and engaging other people on this important topic so we can improve access to clean drinking water for all.”
Since the inception of the RSDA in 2005, Ricoh has awarded more than $450,000 in scholarships for projects at Regeneron ISEF, underscoring its continued investment in sustainability.
“Congratulations to Muhil Thendral on winning the Ricoh Sustainable Development Award at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair,” said Maya Ajmera, President & CEO of the Society for Science and Publisher of Science News, the organization that founded and produces ISEF. “I am impressed by the scientific research, strength of character, and extraordinary innovation evident at Regeneron ISEF 2022.”
Emphasizing Ricoh’s unwavering commitment to sustainability, the RSDA is a prime example of the many ways in which the company is helping to build a more sustainable society through industry-leading innovation and the support of pioneering thinkers like Thendral. In addition to its ongoing support of the scholarship program, Ricoh promotes a sustainable society through its commitment to seven material issues and SDGs, and has set 14 Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) targets linked with the material issues. Further demonstrating this commitment, Ricoh was recently recognized with an ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year award for the seventh consecutive year, and also signed the RE100 pledge to work toward sourcing 100% of its energy from renewable sources in the coming decades.