Water Clean Up

WHILE CARELESSNESS -- AND A RELIANCE ON PLASTIC -- HAS CREATED THIS PROBLEM…OUR INGENUITY MIGHT BE WHAT SOLVES IT!

22 YEAR-OLD INVENTOR BOYAN SLAT IS ON THE CASE. HE FOUNDED “THE OCEAN CLEANUP” WHEN HE WAS JUST 17 YEARS OLD, AND RAISED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO RESEARCH AND TEST A SYSTEM OF FLOATING BARRIERS -- DESIGNED TO CAPTURE PLASTIC, AND OTHER TRASH. THE FLEXIBLE BARRIER, SHOWN IN THIS ANIMATION, WILL FLOAT ATOP THE OCEAN’S SURFACE, ITS ARMS OUTSTRETCHED IN A “V” SHAPE. A SCREEN WILL EXTEND SIX AND- A-HALF FEET BELOW WHICH THE DESIGNERS CLAIM IS DEEP ENOUGH TO CATCH
PLASTICS, BUT SHALLOW ENOUGH THAT MARINE LIFE CAN SWIM UNDERNEATH IT. AS PLASTIC ACCUMULATES IN THE CENTER OF THE BARRIER, IT WILL BE PULLED UP INTO A TOWER AND STORED UNTIL IT CAN BE TRANSPORTED BACK TO SHORE AND RECYCLED. SLAT AND HIS TEAM OF ENGINEERS WILL SET THEIR SIGHTS ON THE PACIFIC OCEAN,
NEAR MIDWAY ISLAND, WHERE THEY HOPE TO DEPLOY THIS FULL-SCALE 62-MILE BARRIER BY 2020.

ANOTHER INNOVATIVE TRASH COLLECTOR IS TURNING HEADS IN BALTIMORE’S INNER HARBOR. BECAUSE THE HARBOR IS LOCATED AT THE MOUTH OF THE JONES RIVER, ALL THE TRASH THAT WASHES INTO THE JONES RIVER FROM SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES IS BROUGHT TO THE HARBOR BY A POWERFUL CURRENT. TIRED OF LOOKING AT THE FLOATING GARBAGE, ONE LOCAL ENGINEER CREATED THE TRASH WHEEL, A FLOATING SYSTEM OF RAKES AND CONVEYOR BELTS THAT SUCKS IN FLOATING DEBRIS. THE DEVICE IS POWERED BY SOLAR PANELS, AND IS ALSO HYDRO-POWERED – THAT MEANS IT’S POWERED BY THE WATER’S CURRENT. MR TRASH WHEEL, AS IT CAME TO BE KNOWN, HAS BECOME A BIT OF A LOCAL CELEBRITY IN BALTIMORE. HE’S GOT A LIVE STREAM – AND A TWITTER ACCOUNT! HE EVEN GOT SOME GOOGLY-EYES LAST YEAR, TO MAKE HIM A BIT MORE, UH, APPROACHABLE?  IT’S NO WONDER THE LOCALS LOVE HIM: SINCE HE WAS INSTALLED IN 2014, MR TRASH WHEEL HAS PULLED MORE THAN ONE MILLION POUNDS OF TRASH FROM THE HARBOR.

BUT IT’S NOT JUST GARBAGE POLLUTING OUR WATERWAYS – IN FACT, AS WE MENTIONED, IT WAS AN OIL SPILL THAT INSPIRED EARTH DAY. AND WE’VE CONTINUED TO SUFFER FROM OIL SPILLS SINCE – INCLUDING A LARGE ONE IN THE GULF OF MEXICO IN 2010. CLEANING OIL FROM THE OCEAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN VERY DIFFICULT – BUT SOME ENVIRONMENTAL INNOVATORS THINK THEY’VE FOUND A SOLUTION: THE OLEO SPONGE. WHEN PLACED IN OILY WATER, THE REUSABLE FOAM SPONGE IS ABLE TO SOAK UP NEARLY 90 TIMES ITS WEIGHT IN OIL. IT’S CURRENTLY BEING TESTED IN SALTWATER TANKS, AND FOLKS AT THE ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY, WHERE THE SPONGE WAS CREATED, SAY IT COULD BE READY FOR WIDESPREAD USE IN FIVE YEARS.


Instructional Links


Website: Ocean Cleanup

Magazine article: EBSCOhost, Popular Science, June 2015, There are Now Five Trillion Pieces of Plastic Floating in an Ocean Near You. | May need password.

Website Article: Mother Nature Network, Meet Boyan Slat, The Garbage Patch Kid

Radio Show & Audio File: NPR, Science, How To Clean Up All That Plastic In The Oceans | Interview with Boyan Slat, inventor of Ocean Cleanup

Website Article: Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Trash Wheel Project

Video: YouTube, Mr. Trash Wheel | Explains how it works.

Website Article: Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne Invents Reusable Sponge That Soaks Up Oil, Could Revolutionize Oil Spill And Diesel Cleanup | Explanation of how it works

Website Article: KidzWorld, Oil Spills, Sad But True

Lesson Plan: American Society for Engineering Education, Lesson Plan: Oil Spill Solutions

Website Links: TeachersFirst, Oil Spill Resources  Reviewed classroom resources sites

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