After tropical storm Fay wreaked havoc on their town, four students from Stone Middle School in Melbourne, Fla. decided to take action and research the effects of floodwater on living organisms with the hopes of raising awareness in their community of the potential health risks. Their efforts were rewarded with the 2009 eCYBERMISSION National title for seventh grade.
The “BabyBots” team, comprised of students Conway Bolt, Ryan Regan, Judith Reese and Taylor Snyder, each received $8,000 in U.S. EE Savings Bonds, which were awarded at the National Judging and Educational Event in Washington, D.C., held in June.
Led by Team Advisor Richard Regan, the students utilized a type of experiment called bioassay, in which living organisms are used to determine the effects of a particular substance. The team chose three different organisms: Daphnia, a small crustacean; lettuce seed, a biennial plant of the daisy family; and duckweed, a native Florida plant found in many freshwater ponds. Their goal was to discover what type of contaminants can be detected and how these toxins affect each variety of organism.
The team was surprised at the high amount of chemical and biological contamination found in local flood and storm waters, and how even the smallest amount of toxins, even those that have been very diluted, can have a negative affect on living organisms. Interestingly, through their research with the lettuce seeds, the team discovered that some toxins can actually have a positive effect on certain plants, helping them grow at a faster rate than average.
Moving forward, the “BabyBots” team would like to develop an educational program to inform their community about the dangerous toxins found in floodwater. Included in this plan is the development of a home test kit that can be used to test flood and storm water for contamination.