Oak Ridge trio displays project to purify water in Washington D.C.

ORstudentsdc2010After months of preparation, Sam Snodgrass, Mattie Lloyd and Sonja Solomon finally arrived at the White House.

Along with 15 other high school groups, the three students from Oak Ridge presented their project – a water purification system – at the White House Science Fair on Monday. The fair was part of an initiative by the Obama administration to promote education in science, technology, engineering and math.

“When you win first place at a science fair, nobody’s rushing to the field or dumping Gatorade over your head,” President Barack Obama said after he spoke with the participants. “But in many ways, our future depends on what happens when a young person is engaged in conducting an experiment or writing a piece of software or solving a hard math problem or designing a new gadget.”

The Oak Ridge group’s project began last year when a group of about 12 students heard about a water purification system being used in Belize. They decided to adapt it for use in Appalachia. The system uses a water wheel to generate electricity that pumps water through filters and ultraviolet light to remove particles and biological contaminants, Snodgrass, 17, explained.

“It’s a pretty straightforward, step-by-step process,” he said.

Solomon is a freshman at Georgia Tech, and Snodgrass and Lloyd are students at Oak Ridge High School.

The students applied for a grant through the Lemelson-MIT program, which gives up to $10,000 to high school students working on new technology that fits a public need. The Oak Ridge students got the full amount.

Television personalities Bill Nye from “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage from “Mythbusters” attended Monday’s ceremony.

Other student projects at the White House Science Fair tested better materials for sports helmets, designed steering wheels that limit distracted driving and developed light-activated, cancer-killing drugs.

Lloyd said the day at the White House was “surreal,” and work with the water purifier is going to be passed to current engineering classes at Oak Ridge High School.

Source: Adam Liebendorfer, Scripps Howard Foundation | Published in 10-19-10 Knoxville News Sentinel (original article may be found at: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/oct/19/science-students-wow-obama-oak-ridge/)

Photo: by Adam Liebendorfer | Scripps Howard News Service (From left, Sam Snodgrass, 17, Sonja Solomon, 19, and Mattie Lloyd, 17, all of Oak Ridge, pose with their water purification system on Pennsylvania Avenue after participating in the White House Science Fair on Monday.)