Maji- Water Security

Maji is a mobile app determining real-time water quality, low-energy PFAS filtration system, and CS environmentalism advocacy platform.

Photo of Hiya Shah
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Please confirm you meet the following criteria

  • We have submitted the supplemental form linked in the description above
  • We are aged between 14 - 20 as of February 11, 2021
  • We live in the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa)
  • We are not employed by, or directly related (parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • We have been working on this project for at least three months
  • We consent to Ashoka and/or GM featuring our work on their website, social media, and in other materials regarding this Challenge using the information in our application
  • We confirm we have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Insta: @thecodebakeryorg Website:

Date You Started Your Project


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Poor water quality around the world causes 3.4 million people to die due to water contamination diseases annually. While chemical kits can test for bacterial risks in water, all are not equally thorough, their tests are conducted infrequently, and the instruments are expensive, so people remain unaware that their water is even contaminated by potentially lethal chemicals because the information is not easily accessible.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Maji is a mobile application that assesses real-time water quality in residential pipes. It uses convolutional neural networks to estimate and cross check water quality using four sources of data: the user’s image of the water, the nearest water pipe testing site, city well field and reservoir checks, and county reports. The app also provides filtration information based on water quality parameters that are abnormal in your household compared to that of your neighborhood. For example, if your chloride level is 0.3 mL/g above the average, it pulls from the Environmental Working Group’s API to recommend installing a reverse osmosis system. The app also includes water conservation guides based on water usage levels in your community. The goal is to make water quality information readily available to anyone, anytime, without having to rely on expensive water loggers and infrequent tests.

3. Please tell us how you are using science, technology, engineering or math to address your environmental challenge.

Maji uses machine learning to assess real-time water quality data, as mentioned above. Currently, I am extending the app by designing a device to simultaneously detect and filter perfluoroalkyl contaminants. Conventional PFAS filtration systems such as reverse osmosis require high amounts of energy to drive water pressure. Rather than relying on high amounts of water pressure, the device will include a charge-driven protein-embedded biomimetic membrane device which will use machine learning algorithms to optimize the device and water flow/pressure to reduce energy consumption. My goal is to install the device in water pipes to report and crowdsource the data to the mobile application, allowing people anywhere to receive real-time PFAS level information without having to rely on infrequent residential pipe tests.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I was inspired to create Maji after completing a water conservation internship with a local nonprofit organization in which I researched my city’s water status, interviewed water agency officials, and persuaded city officials and residents to conserve water via film. Through this internship, I was also alerted to the drastic need to address poor water quality around the world which causes 3.4 million people to die due to water contamination diseases annually. This manifested in my hometown Pleasanton as well; citizens were only recently alerted to lead in our high school’s drinking fountain and high levels of contaminants such as PFAS that can lead to harmful side effects such as cancer. I am deeply interested in machine learning and environmentalism and wanted to tackle this issue, and thus, I built Maji to determine real-time water quality and provide call to action suggestions.

5. Video (Keep it simple, your phone on selfie-mode is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

I worked with a local environmental nonprofit to research local water quality issues and collect data, built an IOS app to determine real-time water quality and provide filtration and conservation options, and created a computational environmentalism advocacy nonprofit. I am currently designing an energy-optimized, bioinspired aquaporin PFAS contaminant filter.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Unlike current environmental advocacy initiatives, Maji's approach integrates software (the mobile app), hardware (PFAS contaminant filtration), and community education (TheCodeBakery nonprofit) to raise awareness of water quality and provide solutions to people of all ages. The filter crowdsources data to the app while TheCodeBakery teaches computational environmentalism. Conventional PFAS filtration systems such as reverse osmosis require high amounts of energy to drive water pressure, while I am designing a novel bioinspired nanofiltration to reduce energy requirements.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made.

Maji's app has won the Congressional App Challenge, through which it was recognized by the U.S. Congress and received a grant from AI4ALL to hold workshops for minority youth across the globe. I have integrated my app and filtration system with my nonprofit TheCodeBakery, a peer-learning computational environmentalism platform targeting youth, especially minorities like non-native english speakers. Over the last three months, we have reached over 90 students from 7 different countries, created around 50 tutorials, and recruited 13 volunteers.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Through TheCodeBakery, I plan to host several Zoom workshops in 2021 on utilizing AI to address sustainability, biodiversity, water conservation, air quality, and weather and disaster relief to equip more youth with the tools to combat climate change. We plan to expand chapters to other countries to extend computational environmentalism education. I will improve my app by including a feature for users to input their health symptoms and receive personalized health advisories based on water quality, to provide trends for each water quality parameter, and graph it with a second line of mean values of their city for the user to visually see how they compare. I plan to collect and input national data to also serve rural areas in the US.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

I interacted with and advised City leaders from district, mayoral candidates, and the business sector, gave presentations to students across the state like Oakland, interviewed water experts, and worked on creating our final documentary “Hometown Water”, which was presented on local TV and the museum, to persuade my hometown's youth and residents to conserve water. My app was recognized by the US Congress and my hometown, through which it raised awareness of the need for water quality education.

11. How would you partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

We will partner with policy leaders, environmental organizations, and environmental service managers to expand the reach of our computational environmental resources to youth, especially in rural areas. We'll extend water security education to various areas of environmental stewardship, including biodiversity, clean air, weather and disaster relief, energy, and more. We'll equip youth with the education and tools they need to leverage CS to fight climate change.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

We are engaging others via social media platforms and the press to convey critical climate information and promote computational environmentalism tutorials. Also, we are working with other youth initiatives, hackathons, and environmental organizations to share our workshops. We'll be releasing the Maji app to the app store with which people around the nation will be able to retrieve real-time water quality. We'll share the low-energy filter with national environmental organizations like EPA.

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $100-$1k

14. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you? You’ll be able to select only one option.

  • Marketing Strategy

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Search engine
  • Email

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Probably - 25%

Maybe - 0%

Probably not - 0%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 25%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 50%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 0%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 25%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 75%

4 - Yes, I think so - 25%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not. - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

4 - Yes, I think so - 100%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 75%

4 - Yes, I think so - 25%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 0%

4- Yes, I think so - 25%

3- Maybe - 50%

2- Probably not - 25%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 66.7%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 100%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 33.3%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 66.7%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 33.3%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 0%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 50%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 0%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 100%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 50%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 100%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

Other option - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Luna Abadia

It's really inspiring that you created your own app that can help people test the quality of their water. Being able to assess drinking water, especially the presence of non-visual contaminants, could benefit many. I hope that this tool is spread to as many people as possible!

Photo of Kalpana Yanamadala

The app looks great and glad to see young changemakers working on solving problems around us. Starting with an Minimum Viable product and then improving on it is a great strategy for success.

Photo of Hiya Shah

Thank you!

Photo of Sole2Soul Agustin

Love the work you are doing! Water quality is essential to building safe and sustainable communities and I am glad you and your team have taken the time to address this issue!!!!

Photo of Hiya Shah

Thank you!

Photo of Matthew Marchyok

Thank you for your work on water issues, Maji, TheCodeBakery and computational environmentalism. You clearly have a vision that has many dimensions and have built important relationships along the way. I am an educator and curriculum designer and must say there is much to learn from this project and look forward to its evolution!

Photo of Hiya Shah

Thank you!