Middle school, high school students present research at NDSU
Thirty middle school and high school students from four countries met by teleconference at NDSU Nov. 19 to present research from an intensive six-month project.
During the International WateRediscover Conference, five teams from Bangladesh, India, Uganda and the United States each gave 15-minute presentations on projects where they designed, fabricated and tested wastewater-recycling units following the engineering design process.
“The primary objective of WateRediscover is to entice our younger generation to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education,” said Achintya Bezbaruah, assistant professor of civil engineering at NDSU and WateRediscover project director. “This also gave students the opportunity to interact with their peers from across the globe.”
NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani noted adequate food and clean water are pressing real-world problems. “You have the potential to solve these problems,” Bresciani told the students. “I have great faith in your capacity to do that.”
A group of ninth and 10th graders from West Fargo Public Schools represented the U.S. They participated in the teleconference from NDSU, while the other teams participated from their hometowns.
Bezbaruah, who has worked with West Fargo students on water recycling projects in the past, expanded WateRediscover to an international scale this year. He recruited two teams from India, his home country, while Anthony Wamono and Mohammad Anar, graduate students in environmental conservation science, identified communities in their countries and served as project coordinators. Harjyoti Kalita, a graduate student in the materials and nanotechnology program, was coordinator for his home state in India.
WateRediscover was a chance “to share the uniqueness of our country with the NDSU and global community while also learning about other nations,” said Wamono, who is from Uganda.
Anar, who is from Bangladesh, enjoyed seeing how each team tackled the same problem using resources available where they live. The U.S. team, for example, tested whether baking soda, a common kitchen staple in the U.S., would remove ammonia from water. A team from India tested ash of chopped banana roots, an ingredient in Assamese cooking, for the same purpose, Bezbaruah said.
The team from Bangladesh learned how to identify a problem, work toward solving it and the importance of teamwork, said Enayet Hossain, lecturer in the soil science department at the University of Chittagong, who served as mentor for the group of five high school students. “Now they think about the other issues of global importance after coming to know about the impending crisis stemming from water scarcity,” he said.
Jonathan Ntale, laboratory technologist and program officer at St. Francis Health Care Services Njeru in Uganda, saw the students he mentored gain interest in science during the six-month project. Identifying potential water filters available in their village “gave them a better understanding of protecting their environment’s natural resources because these resources are important in cleaning wastewater,” he said.
Pankaj Dutta, who led one of the teams from India, said his students learned problem-solving skills that will be useful in their academic and personal lives. The U.S. team “gained a global awareness, empathy and appreciation for differences,” said Holly Erickson, a math teacher at the West Fargo STEM Center and mentor for the West Fargo team. “A ton of what I saw here will truly help these kids years from now.”
Bezbaruah hopes to expand WateRediscover to more countries next year by involving NDSU graduate students from different countries to serve as coordinators. “The graduate students will gain valuable experience by getting involved in such a program,” he said.