(312c) Providing Access to Clean Water: Activities for Freshman Engineering Courses and Outreach

Authors: 
Davis, V., Auburn University
Lakin, J., Auburn University
Davis, E. W., Auburn Univerisity
This talk will describe an adaptable module on water quality that has been used for middle school students through college engineering freshman. It will describe the motivation for the activity, modifications for different time constraints and audiences, and evaluation data from engineering summer camps and freshman “Introduction to Engineering” courses. The National Academy of Engineering’s Engineering Messages and Grand Challenges for Engineering highlight the important role of the engineering profession in addressing societal challenges. Surveys of high school and engineering freshman have shown that students have particular interest in the grand challenge “Provide Access to Clean Water.” In its simplest form, the module provides a basic introduction to filtration, nanotechnology, and the importance of water quality and scarcity issues. This version of the activity takes approximately 1.5 hours. More detailed versions can incorporate a broad range of science and engineering concepts including filtration, nanotechnology, concentration measurement and unit conversion, learning Excel, citizen science, and remediating biological contamination. The full version used in “Introduction to Engineering” classes, takes approximately one week of class time (three sessions plus homework). It includes a reading assignment on the water scarcity and quality issues, an industry speaker from a related field, an in class lab activity, an out of class activity, and a report. The in class activity involves filtering water from a local natural water source through different media, including filter paper impregnated nanosilver via a simple microwave oven technique. The students use a combination of test strips, iDip handheld water meters that send data to their cell phones, and traditional plate streaking techniques to make a variety of measurements on the water both pre and post filtration through the various media. For homework, the students checkout one of the meters to gather data on additional water sources of their choosing. The resulting data is compiled and used to teach Excel skills such as plotting data with error bars, and basic statistic functions. At the end of the activity, the students write a report, which consolidates the whole activity, incorporates specific calculations in concentration measurement and unity conversion, and provides students experience in written technical communication.