Miami students engineer $1,000 annual savings for local business


Carstar owner Mike Libecap (left) and senior Tyler Hammerle with the rainwater storage tanks. The stored water is used to wash vehicles before and after repair (photos by Scott Kissell).

Miamideas logoby Margo Kissell, university news and communications,

An Oxford business should save about $1,000 annually on its water/sanitary sewer bill, thanks to work by students in the department of chemical, paper and biomedical engineering.

The four-member team — seniors Tyler Hammerle, Catherine Puleo and Liz Kinkopf, along with May 2015 graduate Kim Solomon — worked on a rainwater collection and reuse senior design project with Carstar of Oxford Auto Body, 5017 College Corner Pike.

The students designed a system to reuse rainwater collected from the auto shop's roof and store it in two large plastic tanks located inside the heated basement that hold a combined 600 gallons. The business uses the water to wash vehicles before and after repair work.

The collected water first runs through a smaller plastic barrel, which catches any sediment from the roof. It then flows into the storage tanks, which connect to a high-pressure power washer to clean the vehicles.

Hammerle, a senior chemical engineering major with a concentration in environmental engineering, said they began working on the project in September 2014. Installation was completed in late July; since then, the tanks have maintained water.

"It hasn't gone dry yet," said Hammerle, who will graduate in December. Recent rainfalls filled the tanks again.


Tyler Hammerle, who graduates in December, stayed in Oxford over the summer to see the project to completion.

Carstar owner Mike Libecap said it was neat seeing the students work on the project, which he said wasn't that expensive to implement because of surplus or repurposed materials.

"It was one of those things that after we did it and I realized how much water there was, it did kind of open my eyes" to the value of such a system, he said.

"My first thought was all the farmers that could use the water off their barns just to water the animals," he added.

Cathy Almquist, associate professor of chemical, paper and biomedical engineering, and Vincent Hand, adjunct associate professor in that department, served as co-advisers for the project.

"This is a win not only for the students and for Mike, but it's also an environmental win," said Hand, who also chairs the Oxford Environmental Commission. "This water is being collected from the roof and being diverted from the storm sewers, which is an important consideration for the city of Oxford."

The water ends up in the sanitary sewer, which Hand said improves the quality of local streams because detergents aren't going into the storm sewers.