A team of sisters from Simms High School are among five state finalists for a national STEM competition organized by Samsung.
Over the last four years, Madison and Mackenzie Wiegand have been working with silver nanoparticles to kill harmful bacteria like E. coli.
When they proved the science that silver particles could help stop bacterial growth, they needed to find a use.
“OK, what about E. coli in the water and that sort of thing? Then it eventually just kind of evolved into a water filtration system,” recalls Madison.
The girls, along with their science teacher Jordan Hollern, started combining their nanoparticles with UV light.
“What the silver is doing is just stopping anymore E. coli from growing,” explains Mackenzie. “When the UV light and the nanoparticles interact with each other, it heats up the nanoparticles and basically just fries the E. coli that’s already there.”
The project evolved into a water container that combines a silver nanoparticle filter paper with a UV light strip, the only problem was that silver nanoparticle filter paper didn’t exist.
“No one’s ever done it before so we had to kind of just do it on our own,” says Hollern.
The team created their own filter by sterilizing filter paper, soaking it in a silver particle solution, and then heating them in an incubator.
They believe their filter will be best used in developing countries where water must be moved from the source.
They plan to incorporate it into a large drum called a hippo roller, frequently used in developing countries to roll water from its source to a person’s home.
“Say it would take about an hour to get from point A to point B,” says Madison, “by the time they reach their home they would have clean water.”
While the greatest need for this type of system is in poorer countries, the girls say there are many applications.
“This filtration method can be applied just in our community or nation or just globally, so that’s the great thing about this filter is its versatility,” says Madison.
Right now, the girls are working with small-scale modes of their filter system that they build using the school’s 3D printer.
After years of testing, they say the science is on their side and the success has held their interest in the project.
Other Montana teams include Lewistown Junior High School, Sentinel High School in Missoula, Red Lodge High School, and Corvallis High School.
The winner of each state will be announced Dec. 21 and 40 will receive a $20,000 Samsung technology package.
Three national finalists will each receive a $100,000 technology package.
-Reported by Joe Huisinga/MTN News