science fair

My Confidence in Future Young Scientists

By Thabit Pulak

EPA guest blogger Thabit and friends

The students were taking part in “enrichment clusters,” sessions in which they learn about one important public issue in depth. I was invited by 2nd-grade teacher Ms. Claborn to visit her cluster on water purification and to present a real-life example of a water filter.

I had recently worked to develop an affordable filter that removed not only bacteria and contaminants from water, but also arsenic, a poisonous substance that affects nearly 150 million people across the world today. I had the opportunity to present my water filter at the 2012 Intel International Science Fair, where I won 3rd place and EPA’s Patrick J. Hurd Sustainability Award. The Hurd Award included an invitation to present my project at the annual National Sustainable Design Expo, which showcases EPA’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) program.

STEM in the classroomI presented the filter to the class and answered questions, learning just as much from them as they did from me.  I was invited to stay for the remainder of the cluster, where the students were putting final touches on their own water filters. Ms. Claborn gave each of the students some muddy water to run through the filters. It was exciting for me to see the children’s smiles as they looked at the clean water slowly trickling out of the open edge of the soda bottle after traveling through the sand and rocks. The filters were based on a water filtration activity that EPA designed specifically for students.

Afterwards, I was invited to attend the upcoming STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) exhibit that the school was hosting. The students’ mini filters would be on display, and I was invited to display my filter alongside theirs. As the stream of curious parents and students came in, I gladly talked about both what the students did and my own filter, and what this means for the future of environmental sustainability issues like water.

This was my first opportunity to present my work outside of my school and science fairs. I felt very honored and happy to be able to give something back to the community. I hope to find ways to keep doing so!

 

About the Author: Guest blogger Thabit Pulak of Richardson, Texas was the winner of the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) 2012. As part of this award, he was invited to attend and exhibit at the National Sustainable Design Expo, home of the P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability in Washington, DC. He was also the recipient of the 2013 Davidson Fellows Award

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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EPA Recognizes High School Students for Environmental Innovation

PatrickHHurdAward2013Jacquel Caron Rivers and Arne Joi Saguni Nipales win the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award, and will showcase their winning project at the National Sustainable Design Expo in 2014.

Today, EPA recognized the winners of this year’s EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Arizona. Named in honor of EPA employee Patrick H. Hurd who helped establish the award, it recognizes students who demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship.

Jacquel Caron Rivers and Arne Joi Saguni Nipales, both seniors at Baboquivari High School, Sells, Arizona were named the recipients of the award. Their project, “Total Solar Strategy for the Tohono O’Odham Nation,” uses solar oven technology for storing energy and heating the traditional adobe constructed homes used on the reservation. Rivers and Nipales were picked out of 1,611 student scientists and engineers competing in the fair this week.

“The student finalists of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair are finding innovative approaches to the world’s complex problems,” said Lek Kadeli, principal deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “EPA is proud to recognize a project that is addressing environmental challenges in a more sustainable way.”

The EPA Patrick H. Hurd award funds the winning students (and a chaperone) to participate in and display their project at EPA’s 2014 National Sustainable Design Expo. The Expo features EPA’s P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) Student Design Competition for Sustainability. Held each spring in Washington, DC, the National Sustainable Design Expo brings together P3 students, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and businesses that are working to create a sustainable future.

The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the world’s largest pre-college science competition, hosting more than 1,500 high school students from over 70 countries, regions, and territories. Students advance to it from several levels of local and school-sponsored, regional, and state fairs showcasing their independent research. The Society for Science & the Public, a non-profit organization dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, founded and runs the fair.

 

Forget about the blue ribbon and $20 gift certificate for the homemade volcano. These kids were bringing some serious science: biochemistry, electrical and mechanical engineering, environmental management, nuclear and particle physics, cellular and molecular biology, and medicine and health sciences—just to name a few.

–Patrick Hurd wrote in his 2009 blog entry about attending the ISEF,  Science is Cool

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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The Judge

By Shelby Egan

Working as an intern in the environmental field has its perks, like being able to learn about how to protect the earth and gaining insight on how to make a difference in my local community, but this week’s task was different.   I volunteered as a science fair judge for 7th grade students in Chicago.  Although I am not a scientist, I learned many new things from these students that I never knew about in middle school.  Cool projects included testing which type of water (distilled, bottled, or tap) left one’s hair softer after washing it, and learning which type of cat food is easiest for a cat to digest (don’t worry no real cats were involved!).  Other intriguing projects included testing how temperature of water affects the rate at which an Alka Seltzer tablet dissolves. The most interesting thing about hearing about each student’s project was to see how unique each experiment was.  No two projects were the same, and students were able to tap into their creative, scientific interests and learn something new!  So the next time you have a science fair or a school project that involves the environment, explore your favorite interests and create a new experiment!

Shelby Egan is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for protecting natural resources, cities she’s never been to and cooking any recipe by The Pioneer Woman.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Sensors and Sensibility

By Vasu Kilaru

Around us every day are technologies that give us access to more information at our fingertips than any generation has ever had.  As an EPA scientist, I’m pretty thrilled about these innovations and what they mean for environmental protection.

One exciting new initiative in that realm here at EPA is called Apps and Sensors for Air Pollution or ASAP. This new aspect of our research came out of the recognition that the advances in sensor technologies are unfolding at the same amazing pace that we all see with new cellphone and smartphone technologies.

Cellphones already have a variety of sensors built in:  light sensors and proximity sensors to manage display brightness, accelerometers used as switches or to characterize motion, GPS to provide mapping and locational services, compass and gyroscope to provide direction and orientation, microphones for audio, and a camera for video/photography.

These capabilities have led to the logical coupling of other sensors, such as for air pollution monitoring or biometric measurements, with smartphones.

Traditionally, air monitoring technologies were costly to setup and maintain, and therefore were put under the purview of governments (federal and state). Now, new miniature sensor technologies are more affordable and have the advantage of being highly portable. These developments in sensor technology present an exciting new frontier where monitoring will be more democratic and available much more widely. Parallel to these developments are sensors that measure physiological conditions such as heart rate or blood oxygen levels.

Pairing environmental sensors with ones that measure biological conditions could herald a new era for both environmental protection as well as healthcare. Future developments in these sensor technologies ultimately have the capacity to help people make better decisions regarding their environment and their own health.

So we are excited to do our part in bringing new technologies to you.  If you’re going to the World Maker Faire in New York this weekend (September 29-30), stop by our EPA booth, we’d love to talk about how DIYers, makers, inventors can help make a greener future.

About the Author: Vasu Kilaru works in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He is currently working on the apps and sensors for air pollution initiative (ASAP) helping the Agency develop its strategic role and response to new sensor technology developments.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Among the Stars

By Verle Hansen

Each year, EPA participates in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with an exhibit booth to share information about how science and engineering support environmental protection. We also sponsor an award—the EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award—presented to a student whose work demonstrates a commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship.

Science Fair opening night.

Among the stars.

I am serving as one of EPA’s judges this year, so I was able to attend the opening ceremonies in Pittsburgh Monday evening. Attending students from around the world contributed greetings in the form of film clips from their home countries.

The short films were a great way to get things started. Two young Danish men merely gave the Intel theme musical “Bum-bum-bummmmm,” making their’s the most unique and memorable.

To me, this short creative gesture was a clear sign that this was an event different from others. This event is not focused on old models, but on new approaches and new ends. Even the Fair’s theme, “Inspired to change our world,” is about the future.

Okay, getting 1,549 teenager scientists and engineers in one room is naturally about the future.

But each time one imagines the future, they have to take the past into account. Pittsburgh itself is a perfect example. Forced to re-imagine and re-create itself after the decline of its primary industry, the community embraced the fact that change was inevitable, but firmly rooted in the past.

It is also the past that gives character and value to place.  But, oh how refreshing to see the future from new minds unfettered by words like “should” and “can’t.”

To simply envision the future that will have to exist to give options and opportunities to future generations is enough to inspire changes in how research is structured, or as one speaker put it Monday night: “…it is not about science, it is about imagination.”

Seeing such energetic, inquiring young minds eager to both incorporate their engineering skills and embrace the concept that people matter, I can’t help but feel that the future is indeed bright. For me, it is hard to imagine how high the future will be for each of these young people, considering that their starting point is already among the stars.

About the Author: Verle Hansen, Ph.D., is a community planner in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Ready For Your Science Fair Project?

By Shanshan Lin

This month, students across the country are busily preparing for their annual science fair projects. If you are a student still pondering ideas for your investigation, a teacher looking for classroom resources, or a parent interested in helping your child find the perfect science fair project, EPA has free resources and tools for you.

Interested in climate change? Use the Greenhouse Gas Data Publication Tool to investigate local sources of carbon pollution. Are you wondering about your home’s impact on the climate? Check out the Household Emissions Calculator to explore the impacts of taking various actions to reduce your family’s greenhouse gas emissions. Want to learn first-hand about the effects of climate change on the natural world? Take a look at the student scientist guide to learn how to observe the impacts of climate change in your backyard.

Concerned about air quality? The Air Pollution: What is the Solution website uses real time data to help you understand about the science behind the causes and effects of outdoor air pollution.

Looking for information on acid rain or how to use pH paper? Check out EPA’s guide on the causes and effects of acid rain on ecosystems. The “Learning about Acid Rain: A Teacher’s Guide for Grades 6 through 8” provides detailed instructions for nine science experiments related to acidity and acid rain, including how to measure the pH of different substances.

Want to learn more about ozone layer? Sign up to receive the free SunWise tool kit, with over 50 activities about stratospheric ozone, ultraviolet radiation and how to stay safe in the sun.

So, get creative and check out these resources and see where they take your science fair project!

About the author: Shanshan Lin is an intern for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation communications team. She is also a graduate student at George Washington University.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.