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Drinking Water Activity For High School Outreach Program

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Topics in K-12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.453.1 - 13.453.9



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Paper Authors

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Angela Bielefeldt University of Colorado at Boulder

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Drinking Water Activity for High School Outreach Program


Environmental engineering needs to recruit more students to meet the high demand projected for the profession. Interest may be on the upswing, as noted by increased freshmen enrollments at the University of Colorado at Boulder. During the High School Honors Institute (HSHI) in 2007, a new activity on drinking water was introduced in an effort to make students aware of the importance of environmental engineering in daily life. A pre-survey was given in the first morning session to stimulate student thinking on the topic. This survey indicated that of the 37 students, 32 frequently drank tap water or tap water with further treatment, and 12 frequently drank bottled water. The most significant factor influencing this choice was convenience, followed by taste, cost, and perceived safety. About half of the students did not know the source of origin of the water that they drank most often. These survey results were then incorporated into an activity later in the day and used to assign students to research different waters: a municipal tap water derived from surface water, a municipal tap water derived from ground water, and two different bottled waters. In the course of the activity, the students looked at factors that influence the quality of the water – both at the source, through various treatment processes, and during transport and storage. For example, the leaching of toxic chemicals from plastic bottles was discussed, and many of the students indicated that they were previously unaware of this potential hazard. Students also evaluated the taste of the various waters. The activity as designed was too long to fit into the hour timeslot, and modifications are recommended to shorten it and retain the most interesting parts. Results from student evaluations are included. Even if students do not choose to major in environmental engineering, all citizens should be interested in the safety and environmental impacts of their choices regarding drinking water.


Demand for environmental engineers is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for environmental engineers will grow by 25% between 2006 and 2016; this is the highest percentage increase for any of the types of engineers.1 To meet this demand, it is important that more students are recruited to major in environmental engineering (EVEN). Waiting until students are enrolled in college may be too late to recruit EVEN students. In particular, many students interested in environmental issues often elect to major in a variety of sciences (such as chemistry, ecology, atmospheric studies) or environmental studies. These students might make great environmental engineers but they are unaware of this career path.

In an effort to recruit more students into environmental engineering, the multidisciplinary EVEN program at the University of Colorado at Boulder participates in the High School Honors Institute (HSHI) sponsored by the College of Engineering. The HSHI is in the summer, with the participating students either rising seniors or juniors. About 250 students typically participate. Students are allowed to self-select two main topics of interest, and spend a full day each learning about those two majors. The students also select three other engineering majors and attend a 45-

Bielefeldt, A. (2008, June), Drinking Water Activity For High School Outreach Program Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4282

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