Oct 27, 2014 by Chris Wood, Ph.D.
The Peachtree City Water and Sewerage Authority (PCWASA) continued its role as a utility involved in public outreach with its support of the 2014 Georgia Model Water Tower Competition. Authority employees helped organize this statewide engineering challenge for students, held last month at Woodland Middle School in Stockbridge.
This Competition is hosted by the Georgia Section of the American Water Works Association (GAWWA) and the Georgia Association of Water Professionals (GAWP). The annual event challenged local students to design and build a water tower with specific size and height requirements, which were judged by Pam Burnett, Executive Director of GAWP, Kelly Comstock, Chair of GAWWA, and Karl Nelson, Georgia Service Center Manager with Utility Service Group – a water tank professional.
Keisha Lisbon-Thorpe, PCWASA Division Manager of Technical Services, is Co-Chair of the event, while also serving as Vice Chair of GAWWA. Stephen Hogan, PCWASA General Manager, volunteers each year as an advisor for the student competitors.
“This competition allows us to introduce local students to the nature of the water and sewer industry, including the importance of treatment processes and the proper design and operation of infrastructure,” says Lisbon-Thorpe. “A properly constructed water tower serves as an ideal project to represent the type of engineering challenge water professionals face every day.”
The water tower models were judged based on three criteria, including structural efficiency, hydraulic efficiency, and design ingenuity. In addition, judges conducted interviews with the students to inquire about the specifics of their model water tower construction projects. Jessica Grimes of Austin Road Middle School was the overall winner of this year’s event, as a result of her submitting an artistic and operational “minion” water tower.
“This is a great opportunity for the kids, especially the girls, because they usually don’t get exposed to engineering to think of it as a career choice,” says Elizabeth Davenport, sixth grade science teacher and organizer of the Model Water Tower Competition at Woodland Middle School, the host site of the event. Davenport says students learn more about the water industry, too, where jobs are readily available for qualified professionals.
“This is an awesome program and the kids love it and get excited about it,” she adds. “We have more kids apply for the event than we have spaces available.”
Davenport points out that the Georgia Model Water Tower Competition addresses all four components of STEM education – science, technology, engineering, and math – curricula being emphasized by public educators on the federal, state, and local levels. Students also don’t have to be enrolled in advanced placement (AP) courses to participate in the event, she adds.
To enter the statewide competition, students must design and construct model water towers from various household items, but are rewarded for using creative designs and innovative materials.
The objective of the Georgia Model Water Tower Competition is to make participants more aware of the importance of reliable drinking water, while introducing them to rewarding (career) opportunities available in the water profession. To do so, the competition requires students to develop an idea into a functioning water tower, just as water professionals do within the industry.
Austin Road Middle School faculty member Brigitte Warde sees the potential growth of the event due to its increased popularity among students.
“We’re hoping to make science cool for students, and this event has the potential to do that while getting even bigger in the future,” she says.
Chris Wood, Ph.D.
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