Campus news in brief

Blue water in GHC toilets raises questions

Last week, many students and faculty members who used the restroom facilities in the Gates Hillman Complex noticed that the toilet water was markedly blue. In an email to many computer science students, Director of Building Facilities James Skees wrote that the blue toilet water was a byproduct of the complex’s many “green” initiatives.

The complex, which is a gold LEED-certified building, has a gray water system that “collects rainwater from the building’s rooftops, filters out the dirt, and stores the water in a big tank on the third floor until it is needed for flushing urinals and toilets in the building,” according to Skees’s email. “This cuts down on the surge of storm water flowing into the city sewer system as well as limits our use of treated city water for flushing purposes,” the email continues.

According to Skees, the water previously often had a cloudy or even yellow-tinted appearance, leading many restroom patrons to “assume this means the water still has urine in it, either because a flush didn’t occur or didn’t empty the bowl entirely,” the email says. The Allegheny County Health Department, however, requires a dye be put in the gray water before it is sent to the restrooms, lest anyone try to drink the toilet or urinal water, thinking it is chlorinated and filtered city water.

When the Gates Hillman Complex was constructed, Facilities Management Services (FMS) decided to use yellow dye, “not realizing how it would end up looking in the toilets,” the email says. Their other option, Skees wrote, was to “put little signs next to all the fixtures which said something like ‘toilet and urinal water is not drinkable.’ ”

Recently, FMS decided to switch to blue dye in the recycled water, leading to the blue-tinted toilet and urinal water in the complex.

Carnegie Mellon students make strong showing in annual Putnam Competition

The Mathematical Association of America’s 74th William Lowell Putnam Competition recently tested students on high-level creative thinking and mathematical concepts, giving over 4,000 Canadian and U.S. undergraduate students from 557 institutions six hours to solve 12 difficult problems. Carnegie Mellon placed second overall in the Putnam Competition, according to a university press release.

Thirty-five students scored among the top 10 percent of competitors, the second most of any university. The only university who placed above Carnegie Mellon in the Putnam Competition was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This year is the third consecutive year that the Carnegie Mellon team has placed among the top five teams, putting the university among only 11 others that have placed in the top five more than twice since 1990.

Although over 150 Carnegie Mellon students participated in the Putnam Competition, the official team comprised of math majors sophomore Linus Hamilton, first-year Thomas Swayze, and junior Michael Druggan. All of the team members are Knaster-McWilliams Scholars, part of a program funded by alumni of Carnegie Mellon’s physics and electrical and computer engineering programs.

“Repeated success in the Putnam Competition makes Carnegie Mellon shine like a beacon, showing the extreme talent that gathers here,” said Po-Shen Loh, assistant professor of mathematical sciences and the team’s coach, in the press release. “It is our hope that by bringing ambitious students together, they can work with each other to achieve success for themselves, the university and the region.”

The Carnegie Mellon team placed fifth in the 2012 Putnam Competition and second in 2011, with additional top-five finishes in 1946, 1949, and 1987. The university’s department of mathematics will receive $20,000, with each team member additionally receiving $800.