Middle school scientists catch NASA’s eye during challengeHudson Middle School teacher Chris Deleon is starting to get a reputation in NASA education circles but he has recently been joined in those ranks by three of his students.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
Hudson Middle School teacher Chris Deleon is starting to get a reputation in NASA education circles but he has recently been joined in those ranks by three of his students.
Eighth-graders Katie Lofgren, Jessica Hines and Marlee Haroldson were recently awarded second-place in NASA’s nationwide Waste Limitation Management and Recycling Challenge. Along with the award, each girl received $100 and the school was awarded $500. Judges in the competition were NASA scientists and educators who made a point of complimenting the girls not only on the content of their project but also on their presentation and response to questions.
According to Deleon, the challenge was open to fifth- through eighth-graders. He told all of his classes about the competition and 25 students wanted to participate. They divided into teams to come up with a way to manage waste and recycling on the moon. The teams worked from October to December and an in-school panel of judges chose the team that would represent the school.
Lofgren, Hines and Haroldson designed a low-cost, low maintenance, sustainable water purification system that could be used on the moon. In their power point presentation the students talked about the inspiration for their system.
“When looking for inspiration on how to build our waste water purification system, we decided to look to the natural water cycle (precipitation cycle) here on earth. Nature has already found a way to purify water to maintain life. We tried to use as many recycled items as possible (in the design).”
The “Hudsonators,” the name they chose for their team, described the three steps of their project. It began with a bio-sand filter whose function was to break down ammonia and remove pathogens and other contaminants from the waste water.
The second step was a hydroponics system that used water in the system to expand the scope of gardening on the moon to include a wider variety of plants. The third step was a distillation process and the use of an activated charcoal filter. Deleon estimated the project took hundreds of hours to complete.
After submitted their project report, the Hudsonators were among the 20 teams chosen from across the country to make their presentation to the judges via telephone conference. The judges had the girls’ power point in front of them as the girls each presented a part of the project and then took questions. There were strict page and time limits to the presentation. One of the judges commented that the students handled questions as well as some of his doctoral students.
The judges were also impressed the Hudsonators’ project could also be applied to more earthly needs like providing water and food for places in need of it like Africa.
All three girls were nervous when the presentation began but gained confidence as they went. And they were relieved to receive the positive feedback from the judges. One of the judges was female engineer who said she was especially pleased to see “three young ladies” deliver such an impressive presentation.
Deleon was confident that his students stood a good chance in the competition but he was excited when the call from NASA came just a few days later notifying him that the girls has placed second.
Since winning, the girls have been getting a lot of attention. Along with congratulations from staff and students at HMS, the three received the same from the Hudson School Board when they made their presentation at the May school board meeting.
And they say their credibility with classmates in their science classes has definitely increased. Said Hines, “Kids asked about the project but now they ask about other science questions too.”
Hines said she expects to study astronomy when she gets to college. Lofgren too expects to continue her scientific studies and Haroldson said she will likely decide between a career in music or meteorology.
The project isn’t over yet. Deleon said it will be entered into international competition once the girls go on to Hudson High School next year.
Their parents are Kathy and Chris Haroldson, Dana and Dave Lofgren and Melissa Hines. The Hudsonators’ project is on display at the Hudson Middle School.