Student Charles Grody Tackles Water Conservation with Startup Company Hydraze
“This may sound a little weird, but have you ever experienced a phantom flush?” When Charles Grody (Q29) first asked me this sophomore year, I actually started to laugh! All I could think of was what in the world is a phantom flush and why is this boy, who I met a week ago, so interested in toilets? Charles, used to this response, explained that a phantom flush is when you go to the bathroom, step into the stall, and then out of nowhere – boom – there’s a flush and – boom – there’s a flush again! Admitting that this has happened to me on multiple occasions, Charles then proceeded to explain that not only is this annoying, but it also wastes money, and more importantly water! At the time, Charles was in the process of creating an idea of how to fix this design flaw. Fast forward a year and now, I am proud to announce, that Charles has developed Hydraze, a water conservation company that is working to design automatic, single flush toilets.
Charles began developing the first prototype of Hydraze through his Entrepreneurial and Innovation Program (EIP) honors program. Thinking about this phantom flush issue, it occurred to Charles that the system failure laid in the design of an automatic sensor detecting the distance a person stands from the toilet. Instead, he thought, the bathroom latch should have an installed flush sensor. Therefore, whenever you open the latch – boom – the toilet flushes ONCE! With this idea, he began to interview facility managers on campus who advised him that while his idea was fantastic, the only way this device would get approved was if it had the same amount of cleanliness of an automatic sensor and if it had a one-year return on investment. During this time, Charles’ idea began gaining a lot of attraction – and he began winning grants from EIP, the Do Good Institute, and the Office of Sustainability. With this money, Charles built two tools: a latch counter and a flush counter. A latch counter counted how many times the bathroom latch was opened from the inside, hence an expected flush, and the flush counter attached to the automatic sensor and counted how many total times the toilet flushed. By subtracting the expected flushes from the total flushes Charles could count the amount of phantom flushes! Through this, Charles was able to gather the data that each toilet wastes about 7200 gallons and $150 a year – but with more data gathered these numbers are predicted to drastically increase. Already, Charles’ device would cost him less than $150. Knowing this, he applied and was accepted to both the Under Armour Sustainability Challenge and the Do Good Challenge.
At the Under Armour Sustainability Challenge in April, Hydraze was part of 8 out of 64 teams selected to pitch to four senior Under Armour Vice Presidents. Not only this, but Hydraze was also only 1 of 2 undergraduate teams selected for this opportunity. After the conference, an Under Armour VP spoke with Charles about visiting their headquarters and speaking about his idea with others. Similarly, at the Do Good Challenge in April, Hydraze was part of 3 out of approximately 60 teams selected as semifinalists. While every innovative idea at the Do Good Challenge was phenomenal, Charles won first place and raised $5000 for his company, Hydraze!
Charles’ ability to define, analyze, and fix a problem truly demonstrates the qualities that QUEST strives to establish within each one of us. We are so very proud of Charles for his achievements thus far, and look forward to watching Hydraze further develop from a startup into a well-known company. Congratulations Charles, we have no doubt that you will accomplish and achieve anything you set out to do in the future!