Airports are in a tough situation — they can’t fly ice-covered airplanes but the chemicals they use to melt ice can kill wildlife.
So a group of West Branch Middle School students set out to find a solution. With help from University of Iowa staff, the young research team — dubbed “the DeIcers” — studied the effects of the melting fluids and took water samples from streams near airports.
“The airports can’t stop using deicing fluid so our solution is deicing pads to collect the run-off,” West Branch student Russell Martin said.
University officials recognized Martin’s team and three other research groups at a reception Friday night at the State Hygienic Laboratory in Coralville. Other groups of Eastern Iowa students studied radon detection systems, nutritional values on food packages, and the effect of energy drinks on drivers.
Each of the groups were mentored by local scientists and given access to university research facilities. Students say that support was invaluable.
“We would’ve never got here today without the help of our experts,” said Hunter Wargo.
University of Iowa President Sally Mason stopped by the event to commend the young researchers.
Mason talked about her own past and her route to science — she earned a degree in zoology from University of Kentucky in 1972 and a Ph.D. in biology from University of Arizona in 1978. But before Mason earned those degrees on her way to becoming the president of a major research university, she said she found a passion for “the discovery part of research.”
“I see the kinds of things I was doing at your age except you’re doing them a lot better,” Mason told the students, “and that reflects well for our country’s future.”
The student research program is just one of the outreach programs the hygienic lab hosts. Lab Director Christopher Atchison said the goal is to attract young people to public health science.
“It’s terribly important,” he said Friday. “We’re here celebrating what really is the next generation of science not only in Iowa but in the world.”