Posted by Laurie Sullivan at 5/24/2010 9:00:00 AM
A team of fifth grade students at Barrett Elementary, working with Wendy N. Cohen, Resource Teacher for Gifted, and Barrett’s Project Discovery teachers, Laurie Sullivan and Allyson Greene, participated in a NASA Design Challenge and won a trip to the Kennedy Space Center as part of a national student symposium with thirty-four other schools from around the country.
Two Barrett students from the team were chosen to present at the student symposium at the Kennedy Space Center. The students, accompanied by Ms. Cohen, spent several days in May touring the facility, participating in workshops, and meeting former astronauts and current NASA employees.
The students’ project related to a problem that still eludes NASA scientists: how to get sufficient water for a lunar colony when only small amounts of water have been found on the moon and taking water into space costs thousands of dollars. Students took on this challenge and created a working prototype of a waste water treatment plant that could clean the waste water produced on a lunar colony.
Prior to building the model, students visited the Arlington Water Pollution Control Plant and conducted experiments on the effects of distillation, filtration, sedimentation, and separation by force on simulated waste water. Students also consulted with Wakefield High School chemistry teacher, Verlese Gaither.
Their design starts with a solar powered fan blowing the oxygen created in a lunar greenhouse into a distillation chamber. In the distillation chamber, solar power heats the waste water and creates condensation. This condensation then flows down a slanted roof to a filtration system using moon rocks. The final phase is application of ultra-violet light to kill any remaining organisms. The students’ prototype reduced the ammonia in the waste water and helped balance the pH level.
As Noel Rodriguez, a NASA engineer, commented following the students’ presentation at the Kennedy Space Center, “Hopefully someone will some day colonize the moon and use similar technologies as you described.”