STEM-In-Action Spotlight: Whiz Kids

We continue to catch up with our STEM-In-Action Grant teams to see how their projects are progressing! If you didn’t know already, the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) STEM-In-Action Grant awards eCYBERMISSION teams up to $5,000 to develop their projects into mature and scalable solutions in their community.  In 2018, we awarded 5 teams a STEM-in-Action Grant and this week we’re catching up with team Whiz Kids.

Salvaging Stamp Sand

Hi, we are the Whiz Kids, Siona Beaudoin, Beau Hakala and Gabe Poirier; from Lake Linden-Hubbell High School in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is closer to Canada than Detroit. We have been an eCYBERMISSION team for three years and are in the 10th grade. We started in 7th grade when we wanted to work on an after school science project. Our adviser, Gretchen Hein from Michigan Technological University, found out about eCM at a Society of Women Engineers Conference.

Since we began eCYBERMISSION, we have looked at different ways to reuse or remediate stamp sand in our area. Stamp sand is a waste product from historical copper mining that was done in the Keweenaw Peninsula from the mid-1800’s until 1968. Copper ore was removed from the mine, take to a stamp mill, typically on the shore of lake. Then the copper was “stamped” out of the rock. The remaining rock was “stamp sand” and dumped along the lake shore. This material contains some copper along with other heavy metals. Because it is on the lakeshore, waves and storms drag it along the shoreline. Currently, there is a concern that the Keweenaw Buffalo Reef, a fish spawning area, and the Big Traverse Marina are being damaged by the stamp sand. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) are looking into ways to address this issue.

Our eCYBERMISSION project from last year investigated the use of stamp sand in concrete. We tested three mixtures (0%, 50% and 100% stamp sand) as the fine aggregate in concrete, with the remaining portion of the fine aggregate being commercial sand. We used stamp sand from Lake Linden, MI and Gay, MI to see if their compressive strengths were difference. Our STEM-in-Action Grant involves adding to our data set to determine better how much stamp sand can be added to concrete and still have it meet the compressive strength of lightweight concrete. We have currently tested additional mixtures (25% and 75% stamp sand) of concrete to measure their compressive strength using stamp sand from Gay, MI. Once the Lake Linden stamp sand arrives at the village, we will test it.

We have been working with Lake Linden-Hubbell Elementary students. We went to the kindergarten classes where we made paperweights using concrete with stamp sand in it. We explained to them what stamp sand is and how it impacts our local environment. We will be doing the same project with the 5th and 6th grade classes at the school. The paperweights have a 3D school logo where we worked with the 7th grade technology class in Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw Schools. They took our logo idea and made a 3D design that was printed for each paperweight. Consequently, we will be going up to their school to make paperweights with them and a 5th grade class.

The Whiz Kids presenting to Region V EPA in Chicago, IL. They discussed the issue of stamp sand near their high school as well as learned from an EPA chemist about different analytical lab procedures they use.

The highlight of our project so far was our trip to Chicago, IL. When we were at the eCYBERMISSION competition last June, we stayed an extra day to meet with the EPA in Washington, DC. They liked our work and recommended that we meet with the Region V EPA scientists which we did on October 5. We discussed our use of stamp sand in concrete. They explained to us how their projects work and what we would need to do to get our process to be implemented at a large scale. We toured their chemistry labs to see how different materials were analyzed. One of the scientists will be coming up to our area in a few weeks. He liked our project so much that he wanted to visit our school and come to our science class. He spoke with our Biology class on Thursday, October 18. We are so excited about his visit. 

After meeting with the EPA, the Whiz Kids went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Also while in Chicago, we went to the Science and Industry Museum and on our way home, we stopped by the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and Lambeau Field in Green Bay. 

The Whiz Kids found the Guest Book at the Harley-Davidson Museum and let them know that an eCYBERMISSION team had visited.

-Whiz Kids

So proud of all the hard work Whiz Kids are doing at a community and national level with their involvement with the EPA. We are eager to see what happens next and can’t wait for our next update.

-Mission Control


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