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Science project focuses on cleaning Lucama’s water

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Astrid Santamaria knows that part of being a scientist is learning how to solve problems.

So this year, the fifth-grader from the Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Entertainment did her science project on “Filtering Lucama’s Dirty Water.” It’s a subject that is familiar to the residents of that Wilson County community.

“I heard in the news that Lucama had dirty and iron contaminated water, so I wanted to see how I could help clean and filter the water,” Astrid said. “You need water to do many things like wash and bathe and clean.”

She started researching and found out that carbon could clean the water.

Astrid made her own filter using a two-liter soda bottle and tested powered charcoal and granulated charcoal to see which one worked best.

“The powdered charcoal cleaned the water but it took a little bit of time,” Astrid said. “The granulated charcoal was faster, but it wasn’t as clean as the powdered charcoal.”

Astrid’s conclusion was that powdered charcoal worked the best in her filter.

“You can use this water to clean and to wash, but I still don’t think you can drink it,” Astrid said. “But if you want to drink it, I think you should boil it to be safe and I hope this gives the people an option instead of that dirty water that they have.”

For her test, she observed the color of the water and noted how long it took to clean the water.

“I did them each three times with a timer to see that they were accurate,” Astrid said. “You need to make sure that your conclusion is accurate. That’s why you have to use the scientific method.”

Astrid is the daughter of Adai Santamaria and Denis Lopez. She lives in Wilson but asked friends who live in Lucama to bring her samples of the water from their homes.

“I took people that lived in Lucama and I asked if they had iron-contaminated water and if they did, I would take the water and I would bring them home so I could clean them,” Astrid said.

Pratibha Lakhani, director of instruction and curriculum and chair of the science department, said Astrid’s project is one of about 150 turned in for the school’s science fair this week.

“When she selected this idea, we wanted to take it further because this is the first step,” Lakhani said. “We wanted to see which carbon form worked better to remove those iron impurities. But after that, we are going to do the pH testing on the water. That will help tell us which one is good for us to drink. That is the extension that she is going to go for after this initial project is done.”

Lakhani said that as a scientist, it is very important that when one conclusion is reached, other questions are raised and work must begin on answering those new questions.

“I have this water filter and it is better, but how do I make it better enough to drink?” Lakhani asked. “We want to solve the problem of the Lucama people in order for them to have safe drinking water.”

The next step for Astrid will be to check the water samples’ pH level.

The science fair was organized for students in kindergarten through eighth grade by teachers Karis Graves and Mahlon Mills.

Other students had projects that sought to answer other questions. “Does smell affect mood?” “Which kind of chips are better for me to eat?” “Which chips have more oil?” “Which battery would work best?” “Which fruit can produce more electricity?”

Some of the students will be taking their projects to compete in the regional science fair in February.

“This year we stand a good chance with having this environmental project, which they really value at the regional science fair, so we are excited every year we do this for our kids,” Lakhani said. “The last full week, we had fun doing the science experiments in class and the students have done outstandingly in this.”