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Issue Date: Vol. 50, No. 11, November 2010, Posted On: 11/7/2010

University Student Invents Eco-Friendly Water Machine

Emily Jed
vending, vending machine, vending machine invention, water vending machine, Thirst Station, co-friendly water vending machine, University of Iowa, Gretchen Swan, single-use plastic water bottles, Charles Whiteman, Tippie College, Christiansen

Thirst Station

IOWA CITY, IA -- A new eco-friendly water vending machine has been installed at the University of Iowa. Called the Thirst Station, it dispenses filtered, chilled water directly into a customer's own water bottle or cup.

The idea for the Thirst Station came from Solon resident Gretchen Swan, who attended the university's FastTrac entrepreneurial training program. Swan was concerned about the proliferation of single-use plastic water bottles and worked to find a vending machine that would fill water bottles and cups. She found a machine made in Europe and modified it to create the Thirst Station.

PHOTO: Gretchen Swan with Charles Whiteman, senior associate dean in the Tippie College, and Liz Christiansen, director of the UI Office of Sustainability.

The energy-efficient machine uses a flash chilling process for each serving. It also has the ability to dispense flavored waters, juices and teas, but only water will be available in the pilot phase of the project.

The machine, installed last week, will be tested in the vending area on the first floor of the school's Pappajohn Business Building. After a weeklong free trial period, users will need to pay 70¢ for 16 fl.oz. of water, 85¢ for 20 fl.oz. and $1 for 24 fl.oz.

Dave Collins, a lecturer in the FastTrac program, helped Swan develop her business plan, bring the machine to fruition and secure the necessary agreements to place the Thirst Station on campus.

Students in Collins' marketing class will be working over the academic year to conduct marketing studies on the water vender and collect data on usage. They will also help market the Thirst Station, and design a logo to be placed on reusable water bottles for sale.

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