As part of our Outreach and Education program, the Ipswich River Watershed Association hosts various youth groups at our Riverbend headquarters throughout the spring, summer and fall. In September of this year we welcomed Team Pushy Motion, a group participating in FIRST Lego League, a STEM program that seeks to immerses kids in real-world science and technology challenges.
The kids were eager to learn about watersheds and different threats to clean water. They asked intelligent questions about how stormwater pollution gets into streams, rivers and lakes and what can be done to prevent that. Rachel, our Outreach Manager, gave them a tour of the grounds, showing them our green roof, native plant and rain gardens, and the permeable pavers of our parking area. The big take away was that stormwater is a result of human behavior and the solutions can be found in nature.
After getting out on the Ipswich River themselves and experiencing its natural beauty and wildlife, the kids were excited to address the challenge of stormwater. Their goal was to find a STEM solution to addressing stormwater pollution in Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield. While at Riverbend, the team had questioned why permeable asphalt wasn’t used on roads, and learned that, due to its open structure, it cannot withstand high speeds. They decided to come up with a formula that would.
In their experiments, the students found that using hair as a binder increased the strength of the permeable asphalt without taking away it’s pervious nature. Using hair as a binder was once common (many older houses in New England have walls made of horsehair plaster) and is coming back into use.
We applaud these amazing young people for their innovative thinking on water issues. In the future, we believe we’ll see big things from them.