11:27 AM / Saturday March 2, 2024

9 Dec 2022

A science project for safer water

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
December 9, 2022 Category: Local Posted by:

A group of students from a Philadelphia charter school recently applied their science knowledge to Jackson, Mississippi’s water crisis.

ABOVE PHOTO: STEM Ambassadors from Philadelphia’s Imhotep Institute Charter High School prepare to give away water filters during a health fair in Jackson, Mississippi. The students created the water filters as part of a problem solving exercise that addressed Jackson’s water crisis.  (Photo: Imhotep Institute Charter High School)

By Denise Clay-Murray                                                                                                

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice appointed a manager to oversee upgrades to the water system in Jackson, Mississippi.

In August, Americans watched as the city’s residents waited in line to get water safe enough to use for drinking, cooking, bathing, and flushing toilets after massive rains brought the city’s water system close to collapse when the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Center, the largest of the city’s two water treatment centers, had to stop treating water indefinitely. Severe storms had caused the Pearl River to flood and the reserve pumps that were already being utilized to keep the center running failed.

The DOJ got permission to appoint temporary manager Ted Henifin to oversee 13 projects designed to shore up the system, according to the Associated Press.

Among those watching as Jacksonians tried to navigate their lives without something vital to survival was Shirley Posey. Posey is the director of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs at the Imhotep Charter High School in North Philadelphia.

Students from Imhotep Institute Charter High School in Philadelphia show students from the Ambition Prep Academy in Jackson, Mississippi the science behind the water filters the Imhotep students brought from Philadelphia. Imhotep’s STEM Ambassadors created water filters using a 3D printer to help solve Jackson’s ongoing problem obtaining safe drinking water. (Photo: Imhotep Institute Charter High School)

Because the school’s values are based in African-centered education, the desire to use your intellect to help the Black community both locally and globally plays a big part in what students learn and how that knowledge is applied, Posey said. So, she investigated the situation in Jackson.

She also shared her findings with her students and encouraged them to check it out for themselves.

“I was, like, ‘Wow, this isn’t just a recent problem,” Posey said. “This has been happening for decades, and the only solution people were providing was water bottles. We had just received two donated 3D printers. So, I said, we’re not going to just use them to look great. I’m going to use these brilliant and beautiful minds of our STEM ambassadors and help to make effective change.”

What the STEM Ambassadors came up with was a water filter designed to separate bacteria like E. coli, fecal matter, and the other pathogens that have made Jackson’s water unsafe to use. In October, after perfecting their design, Posey and her students took their filters to a health fair in Mississippi’s capital city and gave them to residents for whom getting a simple glass of water takes more effort than it should.

The group of students working on the project — co-lead engineers Montrell Ervin and Mousa Wilson, Felton Thompson, Isaiah Prater, Aasyah Pressley, Jabree Wallace Coleman, Jamesia Cobb, Zymirah Weathersby and Zykiah Hart — used their scientific skills and the 3D printer to come up with a filter design that was small enough to go into a bottle and be usable for anyone.  

Made with a plastic filament, the filter is made up of two caps, Montrell said. One is attached to the bottle and contains a cartridge that houses a paper water filter, and a tea bag filter filled with activated charcoal. That gets topped by a cap with holes in it, where the water is poured in and filtered through the cartridge. The clean water then goes into the bottle or jug that the filter is attached to. 

But before unveiling it to the world, the group had to make sure it worked, Montrell said. They did lots of experiments and made sure it was correct.

They then brought the filters to Jackson. For the students, it was an eye-opening experience because they got to see the problem — and the poverty and environmental racism connected to it — for themselves. 

“We were driving up,” Montell said. “It seemed to be like things were falling apart. There were, like, weeds and moss and things growing up the side of all of the buildings. And when we were at the clinic, there was only one house nearby. It was across the street. And then there was nothing else there, pretty much.”

“It was a culture shock,” Mousa said. “That water is nowhere near consumable. After looking into it, you can see that there’s a lot of fecal matter in the water, unhealthy bacteria, harmful pathogens, and things that can really mess you up inside. If you think about it, from a logical perspective, most of the world and most of your body is made of water. So, this isn’t something that you can just cut off, because you need it to live.”

But making sure the project was sustainable in Jackson was also important. Thanks to assistance from Imhotep alumni, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, State Sen. Sharif Street (D-3rd Dist.), City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At-Large) and Stephen Jones, Associate Dean for Student Success and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Villanova University College of Engineering, the students were able to leave two 3D printers in Jackson so that the filters could be reproduced.

One of those printers went to the Ambition Preparatory School, where the students taught the students in the school’s fourth-grade class how to use it so that they could recreate the filters themselves, Posey said. 

“We broke it down into the different sections of what each of us was originally working on,” Mousa said. “We actually got some volunteers to come up and run the printer themselves so that they can get a little hands-on experience. We ran our test control group and showed how the filters work. We had our environmental racism group that was explaining about how long it’s been going on, and what we’re here to do. So, we got the chance to really immerse them in everything that we were learning and doing so they could do it.”

The other printer was given to the NAACP in Jackson to give to another school of its choosing to continue making the filters, Posey said. 

Being able to help the people of Jackson reaffirmed many of the student’s commitments to going to college and expanding their abilities to help people through STEM.

“I want to be a pediatrician, because I want to help children,” Zymirah said. “I want them to have a better life. That’s what we did in Jackson. We helped people and tried to change what they’ve been going through for years.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Leave a Comment

Recent News

Philly NAACP

Philadelphia NAACP News

February 18, 2024

Tweet Email Tweet Email Related Posts Philadelphia NAACP news as of Feb. 2 Philadelphia NAACP Branch News...

Color Of Money

Commentary: Carpenters Union’s apprenticeship diversity push can lead to success and job fulfilment in the construction industry

March 2, 2024

Tweet Email By Treyvon Ratcliff Hayes ABOVE PHOTO: Treyvon Ratcliff Hayes, a Philadelphia public high school graduate,...


Six tips to improve sleep quality for overall well-being

March 2, 2024

Tweet Email FAMILY FEATURES Despite a rising number of people searching for the term “sleep” in 2023,...


Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl 2024 

February 12, 2024

Tweet Email The Kansas City Chiefs narrowly beat the San Francisco 49ers, becoming the 2024 Super Bowl champions. The...

Fur Babies Rule!

Dog grooming advice to keep pets clean and healthy

March 2, 2024

Tweet Email FAMILY FEATURESRegular grooming can keep your dog looking and smelling his or her best, but...


‘Soaring’ over hills or ‘playing’ with puppies, study finds seniors enjoy virtual reality

February 23, 2024

Tweet Email By Terry Spencerassociated press POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Retired Army Col. Farrell Patrick taught computer...

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun Staff