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Designing and Testing Water Filtration Devices using the Engineering Design Process: A Description of an Eighth Grade Curricular Unit on Bioremediation

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Thinking Outside the Box! Innovative Curriculum Exchange for K12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.442.1 - 22.442.15

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Paper Authors


Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh Arizona State University

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Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh is Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He has bachelors and masters degrees in Computer Science and Engineering and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. His research interests include educational research methods, communication of research, and k-16+ engineering education. Ganesh’s research is largely focused on studying K-12 curricula, and teaching-learning processes in both the formal and informal settings. He is principal investigator of the Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers project, Learning through Engineering Design and Practice (2007 - 2011), a National Science Foundation Award# 0737616 from the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings. This project is aimed at designing, implementing, and systematically studying the impact of a middle-school engineering education program.

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Lisa Stapley Randall Arizona State University

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Lisa Randall, M.Ed., is a K-12 teacher currently working with the National Science Foundation project, Learning through Engineering Design and Practice at Arizona State University. She has a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Brigham Young Univerisity and a Masters in Educational Counseling. Her 14 years of teaching with Mesa Public Schools include curriculum design (middle school and high school) in the field of Bioengineering, partnerships with Motorola and the Arizona Science Center and district-wide teacher training. Lisa is currently studying to obtain her second Masters in the field of Administration and Leadership at Arizona State University.

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Johnny Thieken Arizona State University

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John Thieken, M.Ed., is currently a high school mathematics teacher at the Paradise Valley School District and a doctoral student in the Ph.D. in mathematics education at Arizona State University. He has as Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Northern Arizona University and a Masters in Secondary Education from Old Dominion University. His experiences with the district include curriculum design (to include online coursework) and assessment design (district assessment exams and Arizona Instrument of Measurement Standards practice). Johnny is currently involved in doctoral research (Learning through Engineering Design and Practice, NSF ITEST Award# 0737616, 2007-11) under the guidance of PI Ganesh and Dr. James A. Middleton and Dr. Finbarr Sloane, where he engages in measurement and analysis methodology design, data analysis (quantitative and qualitative), curriculum design, curriculum implementation, and sustainability.

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Designing and Implementing Water Filtration Devices: A Study of Eighth Grade Students’ Knowledge of BioremediationAbstractThis paper describes the implementation and results from the study of a novel teaching andlearning experience in K-12 Engineering Education. The specific novel teaching and learningexperience focused on a Bioremediation/Wastewater treatment curricular unit. The thematic unitwas part of a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF, 2007) sponsored project under theInformation Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. The projectserved over 100 students via a highly engaging after-school engineering education program infour middle schools from traditionally under-represented populations. Participant demographicsare provided in Table 1. Embedded within the project were opportunities to provide discovery-based learning experiences during summer industry internships around “renewable energy andresources” hosted at a local water and energy company. This bioremediation unit was deliveredduring a summer internship, which served 20 eighth-grade students.Eighth-grade students were engaged with the challenge to design, construct and test a wastewaterfiltration device that successfully removed three given contaminants. Basic principles ofbioremediation and water as a renewable resource were discussed. Students were placed ingroups of two. Students were provided with four samples of water, three containing acontaminant (oil, fertilizer, particulates) and one sample of distilled water to serve as a control.They were given a test kit to test for a given contaminant in water. The students were thenprovided with a variety of materials (coffee filters, kitty litter, activated carbon, cheese cloth, pHbuffer, Alum etc.) to remove each contaminant from the water. They were asked to analyzewhich material(s) removed the contaminant most effectively. Using water bottles, contaminantremoval materials, and found objects (aluminum foil, paper towels, scissors, rubber bands, 24metric rulers, duct tape, straws, etc.), students designed and constructed a water filtration device.They selected which materials would be used and in which order they would be used to removethe three given contaminants. They used the engineering-design process to design and build theirwater filtration devices.Student learning was assessed using pre and post assessments, brief write-ups and sketchesdescribing their water filtration designs in their journals, poster board presentations to peers,parents, and facilitators; and demonstrations of their water filtration device. The post-assessmentshowed a significant increase in students’ concept of bioremediation as reflected in the followingidea: “Bioremediation is about using a living organism to clean the environment.”A two-way repeated measures ANOVA was conducted to compare differences in the relationshipbetween pre and post assessment scores (see Table 2). Data analysis shows a statisticallysignificant increase across pre- and post-assessments, t(17) = 19.99, p < .001, ES = 4.00. Thefull paper will discuss these results along with descriptions of the learning experience, the pre-post assessment, rubric used to score assessments, and student descriptions of the learningexperience gathered from qualitative data collection and analysis. This study has the potential toinform educators in both the formal and informal settings who are interested in integratingengineering design concepts into science curricula.Table 1. Percent Project Participants by Gender/Race/Ethnicity 2007-08 2008-09 (n=48) (n=68) Female 67 52 Male 33 48 American Indian/Alaskan 8 1.5 Asian 4 0 Black 10 0 Hispanic 52 68 White 25 30.5Table 2. Pre-Post Assessment Statistics Mean EffectAssessment n Mean SD Difference T Size Pre 10.32 8.21 20 70.24 19.99 4.00 Post 80.56 18.47

Ganesh, T. G., & Randall, L. S., & Thieken, J. (2011, June), Designing and Testing Water Filtration Devices using the Engineering Design Process: A Description of an Eighth Grade Curricular Unit on Bioremediation Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015