Junior High Kids Rockin’ Senior High-like Projects

By Sam Porter

I also had the opportunity to judge Environmental projects  at the 62nd annual Kansas City Science and Engineering Fair.  The Junior Division contained two dozen projects from 7th and 8th graders.  It was an honor to judge these excellent projects with my fellow colleagues,  Daniel Dorn and Janece Koleis, both Organic Chemists in the Environmental Service Division.

We awarded first place in the Environmental category to Maelea Coulson from West Platte Junior High in Weston, MO.  Her project was entitled, An A-Peeling Filter.  She devised an experiment that demonstrated an alternative method of removing chromium from drinking water.  Typically, chromium is removed during drinking water treatment by the use of cation exchange or filtration with active carbon (charcoal).  In third world remote villages such processes for water purification are neither usually available nor sustainable.  Maelea’s experiment demonstrated that filtration of water with banana peels is an effective process for removing chromium in water.  This process is effective because banana peels contain carboxylic acids which bind to toxic metals and remove them from the water.  Maelea’s project was clear, concise, and well articulated and the results showed the effectiveness of banana peels in water purification.  This was certainly an impressive project for a middle-schooler.

Second place was awarded to Ashton Iteii from Trailridge Middle School in Lenexa, KS.  Her project was entitled, Before You Drink That…, and evaluated various techniques for removing coliform bacteria from water.  The techniques she evaluated were Iodination, Chlorination (from household bleach), and boiling.  In her project, samples were taken from three different sites in the Kansa City area.  Her procedure for evaluating each technique was very thorough and easy to follow.  Her results clearly showed these techniques are effective in the removal of both total and fecal coliform bacteria.  All-in-all, this was a very nice project.

The third place award in the Environmental category was presented to Lexie Chirpich from St. Andrew the Apostle Parish School in Gladstone, MO.  Her project was entitled, Drowning in Plastic.  Her project evaluated the impact of pollution from plastic products in waterways on water quality.  The quality of water was evaluated by measuring the amount of dissolved oxygen (DO) in the polluted water.  Oxygen is produced and consumed in a stream ecosystem.   If more oxygen is consumed than is produced, dissolved oxygen levels decline and sensitive animals may move away, weaken, or die.  Her experiment was concise as potential variables in the test procedure were controlled.  Her results clearly showed that uncontaminated water had a higher level of DO than polluted water.  This project demonstrates the importance of proper trash disposal and the use of R3; Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle.  This is particularly important as it has been estimated that 100 billion plastic bags are used in a single year in the United States.

There were many great projects in the Environmental category for this age group.  We felt it necessary to also present an Honorable Mention Award to Keealondre Roseberry from Frontier School of Excellence in KansasCity, MO.  His project was entitled, Energy from Saltwater.  Salt molecules are made of sodium and chlorine ions.  Ions are atoms that have an electrical charge because they gain or lose an electron when bonded.  When salt is added to water, the water molecules pull the sodium and chlorine ions apart.  These ions are a good conductor of electricity as they carry the electrical charge through the water.  His project clearly demonstrated this principle.  Good thought was put into this project as it questions the potential use of saltwater as a sustainable energy source!

Even though these projects were highlighted, there were many other great projects in this category.  It was neat to see the talent and intellect of these middle-schoolers demonstrated through their projects.  As Jeff stated in his previous post, there is certainly a bright future for this up-and-coming scientists and engineers.

Sam Porter is a chemist with the Chemical Analysis and Response Branch of the Environmental Services Division, located at EPA Region 7’s Science and Technology Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

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