Clemson, S.C. - This week, the Academy Scholars of Greenville completed the final designs, building process, and testing phase for their third engineering challenge, all about desalination! With the help of David Ladner, Ph.D., from Clemson University’s Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, the students started with a comprehensive guide in safety with the support of 3 PEER & WISE graduate facilitators.
Next, materials were distributed to each of the 9 groups of 5-6 students. Each group requested materials ahead of time, including flasks, thermoses, copper tubing, and even root beer bottles! Using these materials, as well as provided camping burners and more, the students were tasked with converting 1000 mL of salt water to the highest possible volume of freshwater possible, aiming for a 50% conversion rate.
The groups then constructed and prepared their builds for testing. There were a variety of different concepts and assemblies between the groups, ending up in several intriguing constructions. With the support of the GE Volunteers, Clemson Staff, Facilitators, and a beautiful sunny day, the students began the testing portion of their challenge.
Boiling and re-condensing water vapor was a common theme between the designs, but the system for which they achieved this goal varied between the groups. Some groups had to revise and redesign their builds as they ran into issues along the way. Nevertheless, after a total of over 3 hours of testing, the students had results!
To conclude, the scholars had a wrap up session where they gathered to report their data. Some groups gathered a much higher volume of water than others, but had a high contamination rate, while other groups had a low contamination rate but a lower volume of water. Results varied across groups and criteria, but all teams learned a lot about desalination and the engineering design process. The staff is looking forward to hearing each group's takeaway at the next Academy session, where each group will present on the design challenge! The scholars will highlight their planning, results, and possible corrections as they complete the engineering design process.