The USA Science & Engineering Festival (USASEF) is a national grassroots effort to advance STEM education and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. The exhibitors, performers, speakers, partners, sponsors and advisors are a who-is-who of science and engineering in the United States: from major academic centers, such as UMass Lowell, leading research institutes and government agencies to cutting-edge high tech companies, museums and community organizations. UMass Lowell has had a presence at the last two USASEF. This time EEAS was represented by three outstanding undergraduates.
Over the last month, Shannen, Ali and Char created a model to demonstrate the development and remediation of acid mine drainage. Their model included an eye-catching mountain, two streams, two lakes, an abandoned mine and Indiana Jones. The hands-on activity allowed participants to examine the difference geology can make on acidic water bodies, by testing the pH of the lakes. One of the lakes contained granite, coal and pyrite and had a lower pH than the other lake that contained limestone, coal and pyrite. Many acidic streams are treated with limestone to bring the pH up to a manageable level. These waters are then sent through wetlands (most often man-made) where much of the heavy metals are removed through reduction. The water leaving the wetland is at a normal pH and much cleaner than the initial drainage. It was a great experience for the girls, even if the bus ride home was tiring!