October 20, 2016 - 5:00 am
Whether you take showers or baths, the water you use in the bathtub ends up in the same place — the drain.
A group of students from Hyde Park Middle School, 900 Hinson St., were nationally recognized this summer for their science project that recycles greywater — used water in bath tubs, bathroom sinks and washing machines — before it goes to the sewer.
Their idea was among the top 20 finalists in the 2016 eCybermission national competition that took place in Washington, D.C. The competition is meant to attract students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and give them experience in finding solutions to real-world problems in their communities.
Noticing the low-water levels at Lake Mead, the then-sixth-grade team Conserve Our Water began researching ideas for how Las Vegas families could do more to save water. Team members Jang Choe, Austin Parkerson, Daniyal Qazi and Chris Yeghiayan — all now seventh-graders — learned that a household of four uses an average of 293 gallons of water daily, a majority for showers and landscaping.
“Our city gets 10 inches of water per year,” Qazi said. “Since Lake Mead is running out really quickly … we have to find a way of using it more efficiently.”
After extensive research, the team constructed a filter made of cloth, felt, activated charcoal, sand and rocks to purify greywater from bathtubs. C.O.W. members spent months testing their filter, making sure it was getting rid of the harmful chemicals from soap and shampoo residue and balancing the pH so the greywater could be reused for irrigation.
Although the group worked hard, Choe said they were surprised to have made it far in the competition. While in Washington, D.C., he noticed other finalists had gotten help from local universities, while C.O.W. relied largely on their teacher, Judy Kraus, their parents and family friends.
Kraus said, next year, she would like to recruit more professionals to mentor students working on projects related to their fields.
The team members wanted to take their idea to their community once their filter was completed, and they looked into the legalities of greywater usage in Las Vegas. The students found that there were strict policies against greywater recycling systems in the city.
Instead of letting it become a roadblock, C.O.W. members drafted a letter to inform the appropriate agency of their project and advocate for their idea, but they were unsure who to contact.
“We kept trying to talk to people, but it’s hard when you are not in the system to know exactly who to talk to, so having a mentor would be a really fantastic thing,” Kraus said.
Now national finalists, the students have big aspirations. Choe wants to become a biologist; Qazi is looking at being a lawyer; Parkerson is choosing between a law or chemical engineering career; and Yeghiayan has his mind set on becoming an anesthesiologist.
They agreed that the project not only taught them to use their education to help their community but also to collaborate with others and work in a team.
“It’s a lot better when you divide the work among people that you trust,” Yeghiayan said. “In the past, we didn’t really trust other people because there would always be that fear of them messing up; when you work with good people, it helps a lot.”
To reach View reporter intern Rocio Hernandez, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-387-5233. Find her on Twitter: @rociohzz