Amanda Millatt stands tall and speaks confidently on the stage of the Musser Demonstration Theater at the Franklin Institute as she presents to a group of classmates, parents and teachers the water pump she has designed. Millatt is a graduating senior at the Science Leadership Academy (SLA), one of three schools that recently received a share of $6 million in grants from Philadelphia School Partnership (PSP). She hopes the pump will one day be implemented in developing countries such as Malawi. It was a trip to Malawi that inspired Millatt to redesign the UNICEF water pumps used there, which she says are fragile and inefficient. Her original idea was a pump powered by kids playing soccer, with gears that would be activated whenever a goal was scored. The finished design is more practical than that early concept and, she believes, more practical than the UNICEF pumps as well.
Millatt describes each component of the design in a way her peers can understand. The handle is an “egg-shaped piece of metal that is used to push down the piston.” The piston “is basically a bike pump in reverse so you know how you push out air, it basically sucks up water.” Describing the process with ease, Millatt says, “The gear that is on a 45-degree angle is rotating and pushing down the piston, which is basically sucking up the water into the reservoir, and then when you turn it, it comes out the faucet.” This is not the high school experience shared by most Philadelphia public school students.