Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Kids of today!
When I was at primary school, projects didn't get much more interesting than growing water cress in damp cotton wool. Things have obviously moved on a little since then.
The Statesman Journal reports: [edited]
If Savannah Brown, Marisa Chen, Cory Francis and Emily Farnell were stuck on a deserted island and thirsty for water, they'd go looking for shells.
The third-graders at Chapman Hill Elementary in West Salem would use the shells to convert salt water into fresh water through a process they devised for a worldwide competition by the do-it-yourself technology magazine Make.
The students' desalination idea won an honorable mention in the magazine's MakeShift Challenge and an invitation for the students to present their science project at the second annual Bay Area Maker Faire 2007 on May 19 and 20 in San Mateo, Calif.
"It's exciting because we worked so hard on the project," Chen, 8, said.
The four students, who call themselves the Chapman Hill Techno Team, will staff a booth about their project at the fair and put on a skit they wrote that explains how their idea works. They'll perform before thousands of people at the science, art and craft fair, which is organized by Make and Craft magazines.
"Tons of people will notice our work and stuff," Francis, 8, said.
The team entered the Make magazine contest in February as part of an after-school science club they formed in the fall. The challenge, issued by the creator of the TV series "MacGyver" Lee Zlotoff, was to come up with a way to produce drinkable water if stranded on a deserted island with few items, including nylon sailcloth, waterproof matches and a Swiss Army knife.
The students, under the direction of second-grade teacher Maureen Foelkl, met two to three times per week after school to work on the project. Through trial and error - and the use of a hot plate and beakers of salt water - the students came up with a plan that would use fire to condense water into a potable form.
On a deserted island, the fire would be made by using driftwood, the students explained. They would use sailcloth to strain salt water into shells and then build a rock structure to hold those shells in place, one on top of the other.
The fire would burn beneath the lowest shell, which would be full of salt water, the students said. The water would condense in a purified form onto a shell above, leaving the salt behind. The fresh water could be collected using another shell.
"We didn't think it would work, but it does!" Francis said.