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E-Splash November 2012 - Ill. State Jr. Science Fair
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Illinois Section AWWA - E-Splash - November 2012

Illinois State Junior Science Fair

Randy Vanderwerf, Chair

Once again the Science Fair subcommittee of the Outreach Committee had an inspiring time at the Illinois Junior Academy of Sciences State Science Fair held on Saturday, May 5th at Assembly Hall in Champaign. Our judges observed junior and high school students present their projects that focused on issues important to our drinking water industry. This year, we selected three outstanding projects – two in junior high and one from high school.

One of our junior high award winners was 7th grader, Finn McCarthy from Immaculate Conception Grade School in Elmhurst for his project "Which Water Source has the Highest Water Quality.” He tested several water sources, including tap water, bottled water, Lake Michigan water, rainwater and others. Samples were tested for free chlorine, alkalinity, nitrate, hardness, E. Coli, and several other parameters. Finn's hypothesis was correct that tap water had the highest water quality.

The other junior high award winner was 8th grader Abdullah Islam from Thomas G. Scullen Middle School for his project "Water Wars! Bottled vs. Tap.” Abdullah tested several commercial bottled waters (Aquafina, Dasani, Ice Mountain) against ordinary tap water to determine which was the safest to drink. He tested all samples for pH, E. Coli, and nitrate and found that tap water had the least amount of contaminants and was the best water.

Maybe our water districts and municipalities can use the information from these two scientific studies to promote their water and save consumers money from buying bottled water!

Our high school award winner was 10th grader Valerie Fung from Niles West High School in Skokie for her project "The Ability of Zeolites to Filter Cobalt Chloride from Water.” Valerie's project involved finding the best ratio of zeolites to cobalt chloride solution as a model for absorbing heavy metals from water. She hypothesized that as more zeolites are added to the solution, more cobalt would be absorbed because of available pore space. The zeolites were synthesized by preparing separate solutions of aluminum isopropoxide and silica gel, mixing them together and heating them. The zeolites were added in measured amounts to the solution, filtered, and absorbance numbers measured from a spectrometer. Valerie determined that the best combination was 50 ml of 0.1M cobalt chloride solution with 2.0 grams of zeolites added for 24 hours. This produced a new concentration of 0.001 M, the highest concentration of cobalt in water that you can safely drink.

Finn and Abdullah each received a check for $250 and Valerie received a check for $375. Please join these three winners at next year's March conference to see them present their amazing projects and encourage their work in the water industry! We also selected 7th grader Vivekae Kim's project "A Comparison of Water Technologies” as an honorable mention project.

ISAWWA's involvement in the science fair would not be possible without our dedicated committee members! Our volunteers this year were Steve Gerdes and Kathy Gerdes (Town of Normal), Paul Burris (DuPage County Public Works), Mike Turley (Village of New Lenox), Terry Wilson (Village of Manteno), Ray Ames and Jacque Ames (Stanley Consultants), and Elizabeth Doellman, David Farrar and Diana Flanagan (Illinois American Water Company). I would also like to give Lara Biggs (City of Evanston) a special thank you for filling in for me as the coordinator at this year's science fair.

Please consider contacting your local schools to provide support for the science fair and other education activities. If you would like to participate in next year's science fair, please email me ( and I will include you on the mailing list. We can always use more members for the science fair and other Outreach Committee activities


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