by Erick Archer, Texas Instruments

My wife and I have two great boys, Owen (11) and Hayden (12). Back in September, Hayden came home from school and announced he was required to do a science fair project for his 7th grade science class. We discussed several ideas. The one that stood out dealt with West Rowlett Creek, the creek that runs through our neighborhood. The kids in the neighborhood like to play in the creek, and both Owen and Hayden have been a part of several cleanup projects over the years. For the science fair project, we talked about possible pollution in the creek and the importance of protecting it from harm.

As Hayden’s mentor, I got him started using a TI-Nspire CX handheld and Vernier sensors. He used a Stainless Steel Temperature Probe, a Conductivity Sensor, a pH Sensor, and the new Optical DO Probe (much easier to use than the regular Dissolved Oxygen Probe, by the way). He also used a standard Secchi disk, and a tape measure to determine creek width and depth. This served as a way to determine how recent precipitation levels may influence the concentration of solutes in the creek. It did not take him long to use the technology on his own. He visited the creek over a two and a half month period, taking readings at four different sites: one upstream of our neighborhood, two within the neighborhood, and one downstream of the neighborhood.

Having access to his school’s data-collection technology really made a difference in what Hayden was able to achieve. He received an honorable mention at his school’s science fair, which advanced him to the regional competition. He won first place in Environmental Science at the Dallas Regional Science & Engineering Fair, making him eligible to compete in the Exxon Mobile Texas State Science & Engineering Fair in San Antonio. He is very excited and feels like his project is making people aware of the importance of water quality of aquatic ecosystems. Hayden is very happy about the awareness he has generated.

Erick Archer is a former teacher with a background in biology. He is currently Market Strategy & Programs Manager for Science & STEM Education at Texas Instruments.