Erosion chlorinators, you might not know, are used to purify drinking water in remote, often poverty-stricken parts of the world. They are simple and inexpensive to use, but regulating the amount of chlorine in the water can be an issue.
Or at least it was until Citadel fullback Ryan Keiper analyzed the problem.
"I just used a couple of different valves to regulate how much chlorine was going out," said Keiper, who helped design an erosion chlorinator during a summer internship at Water Missions International. "Before, it was kind of a rough regulation, and too much or too little chlorine was getting out into the water."
Odds are that more than one college football player would struggle to spell erosion chlorinator, much less design one.
But it's all in day's work for Keiper, a fifth-year senior who graduated with a 3.98 GPA in civil engineering and hopes to make such projects his life's work.
"The key term they use is that 'Water is the new oil,' " Keiper said. "It's a major issue and will only get bigger, and that's what I want to be involved in, water purification in developing countries."
Keiper's interest in big-picture issues shouldn't surprise anybody who knows the 6-0, 205-pounder from Allentown, Pa., who likes disc golf, the Philadelphia Eagles and Bible studies. He actually met Citadel coach Kevin Higgins through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes when Higgins was coaching at Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa.
"Ryan is just such a steady guy in his walk every day, in the Corps, in school and in football," Higgins said.
George Greene, CEO of Charleston-based Water Missions International, got to know Keiper during his internship.
"It's so great to see young people like Ryan thinking about a career right out of college that would take them into areas where they can serve critical needs for people who are very poor," said Greene, whose non-profit Christian engineering organization serves the water needs of developing countries. "I know that wasn't on my radar screen when I was his age."
Keiper has a lot on his radar screen these days. He's reworking his application for a Fulbright Scholarship, a prestigious program that offers grants for research in more than 150 countries. Keiper made it through the first rounds of selection, but said, "Tanzania shot me down, because I don't speak Swahili. They said that would make it too hard for me to do my project."
In football, Keiper is making perhaps the biggest contribution of his career this season. After moving from linebacker to fullback two years ago, he is the backup to starter Terrell Dallas in the Bulldogs' new option offense, which features the fullback heavily.
Keiper won't be the Bulldogs' leading rusher this season, but he'll play meaningful snaps on offense and special teams.
"I think this offense fits our personnel really well," said Keiper, who played for 1983 Citadel graduate Rich Sniscak at Parkland High School in Allentown. "If it's run correctly, it's very hard to defend. And we have the kind of school, the kind of people who can run it correctly."
Spoken like a true engineer.