NORTH ADAMS -- Finding a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to strip excess nitrogen from streams and rivers without the use of chemicals or decreasing fertilizer use at farms spurred 15-year-old Tyler Ethier to design and build his own bismuth water filter.
The filter, which he hopes to patent in the future, was created by the Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School (BART) sophomore as part of a science fair project, which he then presented to judges at the 9th annual Western Massachusetts Region 1 High School Science Fair at MCLA on Thursday.
"Nitrogen causes plants to grow very large, but its not sustainable in the eco-system," Ethier, of Williamstown, said. "Nitrogen is a component of fertilizer, which often makes it into our streams and rivers in the run-off from farms or even homes. We can clean it from our streams and rivers, but typically it requires the government to spend large amounts of money and involves chemicals. I wanted to find a way to clean our rivers in a natural way."
While his research indicated that he'd need to create a water turbine to test his filter in a stream or river, Ethier didn't give up -- he redesigned and built his prototype to test on a faucet.
"In the future, I'd like to build a water turbine, install it in a river or stream and collect data for a year or two," he said.
BART was one of nine high schools from Western Massachusetts participating in the science fair on Thursday. Patrick Muraca, president and CEO of Nuclea Biotechnology in Pittsfield delivered the fair's keynote address.
Winners from the fair will qualify to participate in the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from May 2 to 4.
"We lost a few entries after we had to reschedule because of the snowstorm last week," said co-chairman Christopher M. Himes, MCLA's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Program manager. "While it's sad that we lost a few schools, every year it's surprising to see the high level of projects that students bring. Some of it has to do with who the student is and some of it has to do with whom they are working with -- some have access to labs and others have college faculty mentors. Overall, we've seen an increase not only in the quality of the project, but also in the amount of time students spend on them."
Many of the projects presented Thursday, like that of Taconic High School sophomore Zoia Zahid, were the result of individual interests. Zahid's project, which tested soil samples from Pittsfield's Allendale Elementary School for PCBs, combined an interest in cleaning polluted land and the safety of her younger siblings.
"My samples, from three different sites at the school, came back at less the 50 parts per million, which falls in what is considered to be a ‘safe' range," she said. "But what I did find is that the samples all came back in a range that was higher than the 2 parts per million reported in 2007. It's caused me to question how long we will need to keep cleaning this soil and if there is a better way than digging it up and cleaning it every eight years or so."
Mohawk Trail Regional freshman Amar Abbatiello's project was inspired by his passion for longboarding -- a form of skateboarding. His project explored the best material to create a ‘puck' -- a disc attached to a glove and used for turning.
"I found that different materials were better for different styles of longboarding," he said. "In the future, I'd like to buy some more ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, which is used in most store-bought puck gloves, and melt it with the plastic found in a cutting board. I'd like to experiment and find a mix of those two components that creates a puck that is as slippery as a cutting board, but as durable as my control [store-bought glove]."
- Effects of an Administrator's Prosody on Autistic Children: Shannon Boley, Westfield High School
- Effects of Organically-Enriched Soil on Tagetes Tenuifolia Development:Dillon Sienko & Patrick Monette, Westfield High School
- Wood vs. Food Waste Feedstock for Cellulosic Ethanol Production: Robert Bernardara, Westfield High School
- The Antibacterial Properties of Common Foods on the Growth of E-Coli: Olga Korobkov & Samantha Tuttle, Westfield High School
- Hot Tunes: Annaise Seabury, Westfield High School
- The Cover Up: Rachel Huntley, Westfield High School
- The Glowing Bug: Shannon Houghtlin, Taconic High School
- Developing a Cost -Effective Digital Microscope Comparable to a Lab Grade Microscope:Timothy Kwarcinski & Sylvester Halama, Westfield High School
- How Does Wind-Speed, Release Angle, and Temperature Affect the Distance of Ball Flight: Liam Flaherty, Westfield High School
- The Use of "Gray-Water" in Everyday Life: Maileen Kozak, Westfield High School
- Female Athlete Triad: Calorie Consumption vs. Expenditure: Caleigh Rockwal & Alexandra Helliwell, Westfield High School
- Pill Bottles Made Easy: Madisen Wicker & Dylan Moody, Taconic High School
- The Effects of Ethanol on Fuel for a Motor: Devon Kurtz, Westfield High School
- The Effects of Various Cores on Electromagnetic Strength and Range: Brian Davis & Eric Shilyuk,Westfield High School
- Bios and Filtration: Paul Green & Molly Barbarotta, Taconic High School
- Honey, the New Antibiotic: Aliza Ahlen, Taconic High School
- The Effects of Pollution on Soil Microbes: Mollie Dimise, Taconic High School
- Funneling Wind in Order to Maximize the Potential of Wind Turbines: Natalie Diltz, Westfield High School
- Diamagnetic Water Fixation: Tyler Ethier, Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter
- Reconstructing the History of Past Inundations in Japan: Shohini Kundu, Amherst High School
- Semi Automated Carbon Sequestration: Benjamin Parent, Westfield High School
- Inducing Wrinkling on Elastic Substrates for the Ease of Paint Removal: Katie Metayer, Austin Sowa, & Alison Gardner, Minnechaug Regional High School
- Energy Neutral Food Sources: Cote Pudlo, Taconic High School
- Are Weight Loss Supplements Worth a Heart Attack?: Kerstin Johnson, Taconic High School
- The Effect of Temperature and Eating Habit on Amylase: Jiayi Yang, St. Joseph's High School
- Extracting Energy from Transitions in Water Phases: Robert LaFlamme, Westfield High School
- Music Tempo and Its Effect on the Human Brain: Sam Rode & Colton Yezierski, Mohawk Trail Regional High School
- Stimulant Effects on Daphnia: Kayla Baus, Kelsey Scranton & Sally Slowinski, Mohawk Trail Regional High School
- Lift: Which is the Best?: Michael Coelho, Taconic High School
- Are The EPA Cleaned PCB Contamination Sites Really Clean?: Zoia Zahid, Taconic High School
- BMI & Physical Activity: Danielle George, Taconic High School
- Creativity Comparison: Colin Douglas & Joe Tierney, Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter
- Psychology & Lie Detection: Cory White, Taconic High School
- Longboard Pucks: Amar Abbatiello, Mohawk Trail Regional High School
- The No-Trip Whip: Matthew Duane, Taconic High School
- Old vs. New Combination vs. Biometric: Alyssia Bonacquisti & Haley Milne, Taconic High School
- Stress Testers: Olicia Falandes & Lauren Shamburger, Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter
- Another Project on Bacteria: Scratching the Surface: KaiQi Herzig & Ashley Robertson, Mohawk Trail Regional High School
- From Sand to Cell Phones: Whidbey Bissell, Elizabeth Smith & Rebecca Williams, Pittsfield High School
- Test that pH: Jessica Sammons, Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email