Safe Straw

Providing clean water to one community at a time.

Photo of Niya Thompson
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Eligibility: Please confirm you meet all the following criteria

  • You are aged between 14 - 18 as of August 1, 2020
  • You live in the United States or its territories
  • You are not employed by, or directly related (grand parents, parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • You have been working on this project for at least three months
  • You consent to us possibly featuring your work on social media
  • You confirm you have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Eligibility: Date of Birth


What gender do you identify with?

  • Female

Help us stay in touch!

Niya Thompson Phone Number- 734-928-8066 Address- 6320 Sadie Lane Belleville, Michigan 48111

Date You Started Your Project Started


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

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

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

Not everyone in the world has access to clean water. Places such as Uganda and Papua New Guinea do not have clean water to drink. Everyone should have clean water to drink, it is a necessity for humans to live. However, approximately 11% of the world’s population does not have clean access to the resource. Contaminated water comes with thousands of diseases, viruses, and bacteria. So we wish to give everyone the opportunity to have clean water.

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

We are planning to solve this problem with a portable and safe filter. This filter will come in the size of a 1-inch diameter straw. The straw will be made from completely recycled BPA free plastic. The filter will be able to filter out to a point of 0.2 microns in size which is smaller than diseases such as Hepatitis A, E, and Meningitis. Additionally making it portable so drinking is made convenient where ever the user may be.

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

Our passion for the project deprived from our passion for STEM. Before the project was created we knew we wanted to focus on the environment and ways in which we could help it. When we discovered the number of people without access to clean water, we knew we wanted to help. For us to help we used our scientific knowledge of how to filter’s work and the required number of microns to filter out certain diseases.

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

Our motivation behind this project was the Flint crisis in Michigan. Roughly 100,000 people were affected by the contamination of water. Not everyone had the money or resources for a filter which led to the usage of water bottles. Friends were affected by it which made it hit hard. It drove us to find a way to allow everyone the opportunity to drink clean water and help our earth at the same time.

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone 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.

Our project is still in the idea-stage, however, with help from GM, we believe that our product could become a supreme and essential part of people’s lives around the world. With that being said we have conducted extensive research including determining logistics and conducting interviews to receive extremely beneficial feedback.

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

Our project has many similar characteristics to those that already exist. However, we are different because not only will we be a non-profit that collects donations for those in need. We also have a product to help expedite the process and ensure that those in need of clean water can obtain it quickly. The low production cost of our product allows us to produce a large amount for much less. The use of recycled BPA-free plastic aids us in reducing our carbon footprint. Overall, allowing us to be an eco- friendly company while helping those in need.

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

Our project happens to be in the idea- stage however, I am extremely certain that we can make a difference in the lives of many. Over 790 million people around the world don’t have access to clean water. Something that many of us take for granted every single day. However, when it comes to our product we're granting those in need the opportunity to have access to clean water both swiftly and safely. The easy accessibility of our product allows for people of all ages to use it.

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

Ideas for taking our project to the next level are expanding our product to developing countries without clean water. Some countries in Africa have a large population of people with insufficient water sources. We live in a country where most water is clean enough to drink, so our next step would be to assist third world countries and countries without access to clean, filtered water. We would also like to partner with other organizations that could help get our project started. Since our product requires so much time and resources that we don’t have access to, it has been difficult to get our project up and running. With time, networking, and hard work, we aspire to assist the citizens in Flint and others internationally.

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

We have influenced other young people to get involved in our project and care about environmental sustainability by encouraging and promoting recycling amongst our peers. During our program at SMASH Wayne State we installed bins that were made specifically to recycle plastic and paper. This was a great way to remind our peers the importance of environmental sustainability and our project. The Flint Water Crisis was a result of pollution, trash, and toxins being disposed of in the Flint River.

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

We can partner with other changemakers to make a difference by working with organizations that volunteer in Flint for those living without clean water. We could partner with nonprofit organizations such as Nestle Waters North America and Clean Water Action that aid people in Flint. By partnering with these nonprofits, we have people coming together to assist those that suffer from this crisis. Having these organizations’ help will allow us to promote the product and give consumers easier access.

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

I would engage with others who haven’t heard about our project by appealing to their emotions, expressing our project’s depth. Explaining that we want them to have the opportunity to aid those struggling with the ongoing crisis. We’re also using social media and a website informing people about our project and its goal. We’ve begun an instagram page to ensure that our project gets the exposure it needs and a chance to network with organizations willing to work with us.

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

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors


Kimberly Thompson,, 313-330-5248 John Ray,, 313-636-2826 Faith Fells,

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

  • No

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc) (8)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or General Motors, who was it?

John Ray both our SMASH Wayne State and Midwest site director referred us to the Challenge.

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Attachments (1)


Above is an infographic created in order to educate others on both the effects of contaminated water and the number of people it affects.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sophia Pryor

What a great idea! Its clear you guys are passionate about clean water and have a great vision. This idea is very ambitious and collaborating with other organizations could help you focus the scope of your project. Making clean water attainable to people in third world countries is an amazing goal and I think the project is at the point where you can find a focused approach to reaching this goal.

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