Month: June 2016

LSU SRP Research Translation Core Engages with Project E-STEAM

E_STEAM 6.24.16 (25)

Students from Project E-STEAM Summer Camp 2016 visited LSU to conduct hands-on science activities focused on Louisiana environmental issues.

On June 24th, K-5th grade students and teachers from the Project E-STEAM Summer Camp 2016 filled classrooms in Sturgis Hall on the Louisiana State University campus with excitement and energy.  Project E-STEAM is coordinated by Angee Burd, a curriculum resource teacher at Baton Rouge Charter Academy at Mid City.  The goals of the E-STEAM program are to engage local minority students with STEAM education through environmental stewardship and advocacy based on local issues that impact their future and the future of their loved ones.  During the four week summer program students are exploring Louisiana environmental issues including Hurricane Katrina, Bayou Corne Sinkhole, Deep Water Horizon spill and the Intracoastal Waterway Project.  With each topic they use the engineering design process and the foundational tenets of 21st century learning (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation) to discuss and develop solutions.

oil spill combined

LEFT:  LSU RTC coordinator Jen Irving helps Project E-STEAM students evaluate oil spill cleanup techniques.  RIGHT:  Project E-STEAM students measure the amount of “oil” they were able to “skim” from their model oil spills.

The goals and topics of Project E-STEAM are a natural fit with the Louisiana State University Superfund Research Center (LSU SRP) so the Research Translation Core (RTC) was delighted to develop a field trip for the group.  Research at the LSU SRP focuses on newly-identified pollutant-particle systems, including environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs) that form from the combination of pollutants and particulate matter (PM), and their effect on respiratory and cardiac health. LSU SRP researchers have identified EPFRs in PM from combustion of electronic wastes, in situ burning of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, and even in electronic cigarette vapor.  The LSU SRP RTC is responsible for communicating the center’s research findings to a variety of audiences, including the general public.  One of the ways we do this is to form linkages to science teacher professional education and K-12 environmental education programs.

legos combined

LEFT:  LSU SRP undergraduate trainee Grace LeBlanc helps Project E-STEAM students use LEGOs™ to build nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2) gas “molecules” from nitrogen and oxygen “atoms.”  RIGHT:  After mastering basic air chemistry, E-STEAM students build the reactants (propane and oxygen gas) and products (water and carbon dioxide) of the combustion reaction.

The Project E-STEAM field trip involved using the engineering process and hands-on science to evaluate the best response to an oil spill.  After learning about some of the techniques used to clean up oil spills, the students used everyday objects like straws (containment booms), spoons (skimmers), cotton pads (adsorbents), and dish soap (dispersants) to test different spill responses to a model oil spill.  LSU SRP RTC leader, Dr. Maud Walsh discussed how in situ burning of oil, as well as other combustion processes such as incineration of hazardous wastes can lead to air pollution and the creation of EPFRs.  The students then used LEGOs™ to learn about the chemistry of air and air pollution and the chemical reaction behind combustion.