Liquid News

Students Honored for Water-Related Science Fair Projects

Four Irvine students were honored at the May 29 Irvine Ranch Water District Board of Directors meeting for their water-related science fair projects. Their projects were judged by members of the IRWD Water Quality Laboratory staff during the February 29 science fair at University High School.

“These projects are exemplary,” said Board President Mary Aileen Matheis, who assisted in distributing certificates to the students.

Board member Peer Swan agreed, saying, “Hats off to all of you.”

IRWD has participated in the Irvine Unified School District’s science fair since it began more than 20 years ago. The process begins in the fall with Ask-a-Scientist Night. IRWD staff from Water Quality and the Engineering departments are on-hand to answer questions students might have about potential science fair projects, and to offer assistance.

The day of the science fair, IRWD staff members look for water-related projects from the hundreds submitted, then they are judged based on the use of the scientific method, creativity, relevance, completeness of research and evidence of problem solving.

The students each receive a certificate and IRWD donates $100 in honor of each student to their respective schools for the purchase of books or science equipment. In addition, $100 is donated to the school district to support the science fair.

Winners this year included:

Gopal Vashishtha, 9th grade, University High School, “The Effect of Manufactured Nanoscale Zinc Oxide on Filtration Rate and Particle Size Distribution in Membrane Biological Reactor Systems in the Wastewater Treatment Process.” Gopal set out to find the effect of elevated manufactured nanoparticle concentration, specifically zinc oxide, on filtration rate and particle distribution in Membrane Biological Reactors, or MBR, in the wastewater treatment process. To note, many popular and effective sunscreens contain nano-zinc oxide. It is thought that this type of material eventually fouls membrane filters, resulting in higher operational costs. He conducted his research using tap water and wastewater samples he received from IRWD. After various tests and experiments, he found that all three types of nanoscale zinc oxide types he used caused tap water flux to vary and the differences between the three used with secondary effluent to be imperceptible. Gopal’s project went on to county competition, where he received an Honorable Mention, then to state competition, where he received a Second Place.

Elizabeth Chang, 6th Grade, Plaza Vista School, “Evaporating Waters.”  Elizabeth asked the question – will different liquid evaporate at different rates? She used water, alcohol, corn syrup, oil and milk and hypothesized that water would evaporate quicker. She looked up the boiling and freezing points, and vaporization points for each. Her experiment was conducted over nine days. She took measurements every other day.  At the conclusion, she found that alcohol actually evaporated the quickest, with water being a close second.

Zach Howard, 6th grade, Oak Creek School, “Where are the Highest Bacteria Levels, the Back Bay, Newport Harbor, or Newport Beach?”  Zach said he believed that water from Newport Harbor would contain the highest bacteria counts because of boat pollution in the harbor, excess waste from homes and other non-point sources. In order, he believed that bacteria levels would be high in San Diego Creek, higher in the Back Bay, with the lowest at Newport Beach. His interest was spurred from past participation in the Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard program. He took samples from seven different areas and used Petri dishes, monitoring the bacteria growth daily. The conclusion was that the Back Bay source, the Eastbluff storm drain, had the highest concentration of bacteria.

Louis Primeau, 6th grade, Turtle Rock School, “Effect of Elevated CO2 on the Growth of Freshwater Algae.” Louis set out to find out what rising CO2 levels brought on by climate change means for the environment. He collected water from the Mason Park and to obtain algae cells and grew the algae in four bottles with plenty of nutrients and light. In two bottles, he bubbled extra CO2 and the other two bottles were used as controls. At the end of his experiment, Louis concluded that adding CO2 to algae resulted in faster grown than without adding CO2. However, there was much variability in the growth rate on a day-to-day basis, making the results uncertain. Louis’ project went on to the county competition, where he received a third place award and continued on to statewide competition.

For more information about IRWD educational programs, please visit our website.

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