Quest to provide clean water in developing nations drives 2021 Thomas K. Evans Memorial Scholarship winner’s engineering passion

2021 Davenport West High School graduate Brady O’Neil of Blue Grass, Iowa, has been named as the 2021 recipient of the Thomas K. Evans Memorial Scholarship.

The scholarship is a merit-based, one-time gift for new college entrants pursuing education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It was founded in 2017 to encourage bright, creative young people to achieve and excel, and to help them change the world for the better.

He is the fourth recipient of the scholarship, which was established in 2017 to honor the late Thomas K. Evans, the engineer and entrepreneur who founded American PowerSystems, Inc. (APS).

O’Neil will receive $5,000 toward tuition, room and board at Iowa State University (Ames), where he plans to study mechanical engineering in the fall. O'Neil is the son of Jennifer O'Neil and Shawn O'Neil of Blue Grass. 

During his high-school career, O’Neil served as the student ambassador to the Davenport West Engineering department and was a member of the National Honor Society as well as varsity golf team. In addition, he was a four-year captain of the Quad City Blues hockey team, recognized as MVP and honored with sportsmanship, academic and coaches’ awards.

O’Neil also worked as the lead project manager for the Kenya Clean Water Initiative, whose goal is to create a cost-efficient water filtration system that removes harmful bacterial from water sources for two villages in Kenya. O’Neil has experienced all aspects of the project since his freshman year in high school as part of the technical, structural and testing teams.

In January 2020 he was invited to travel to Kenya as the lone student representative with his teacher Greg Smith and partner organization Fisher of Men Industries. While there, he collected data from water sources, taught students basic robotics using a Lego robotic program donated by Davenport West and implemented the very first filters in a local school.

“Personally, I found my purpose and knew how an engineering degree would help me change the lives of hundreds or thousands of people,” O’Neil reflected in his scholarship essay. “I was able to experience what life is like with limited access to necessary resources. Observing the culture and the people showed me what true happiness was, how much we take for granted, and how, with a little effort I can make a tremendous impact on the quality of life of people who live worlds away.”

With his four-year dedication to engineering throughout his high school years, Brady decided to apply for the Thomas K. Evans Memorial Scholarship because it was STEM-based and aligned well with his classes and experiences.

“I feel extremely honored and thankful to be chosen. This scholarship will help ease the financial burden of college and help me accomplish my goals,” said O’Neil. “What excites me the most is being to obtain knowledge in a degree that could one day help others, whether that’s with clean water or cost-efficient housing. I just want to make help make life easier for those in need.”

“Students like Brady are our future, and it is important for us to invest in their education,” said Amy Lank, President of APS, which funds the award. “Through the course of Brady’s young life, he has not only persevered through challenges, but he has risen above them using the experiences as fuel for his passion to make a difference for the world through engineering.”

What’s next?

Read Brady O’Neil’s scholarship essay.

Read the official press release.

Read about the 2018, 2019 and 2020 scholarship recipients.