One university has found a way to engage tomorrow’s stormwater practitioners today. More than 20 teachers and just under 100 high school students gathered at the University of Maine’s campus in Orono to try their hands at stormwater management during the final week of June.
For its third consecutive year, the UMaine Stormwater Management Research Team (SMART) Institute united student participants with university faculty, community leaders, environmental nonprofit groups, and engineering companies for a 3-day, hands-on workshop in water stewardship.
This year’s SMART Institute attracted sophomores and juniors from 16 high schools in Maine. And, for the first time in the program’s history, two out-of-state high schools (from New York and Missouri) participated as well.
The conference, which traditionally includes tours of UMaine laboratories and on-campus stormwater treatment facilities, marks the beginning of a year-long commitment by participating students to research bodies of water in their home communities and to bring those findings before local decision-makers. This year, students collected water samples from the Stillwater River, built their own digital temperature sensors, and delivered presentations about their findings to SMART Institute sponsors.
Paige Brown, a recent graduate of Bangor High School, delivered the conference’s keynote address for the second year in a row. Brown, who is 17 years old, received a $150,000 prize from Intel Science Talent Search in March as well as the 2015 Maine Stockholm Junior Water Prize for her invention of a device that filters phosphorus from running streams.
Participating high schools may attend the conference for free each year, thanks to more than $735,000 in grant funding from the National Science Foundation. Among other program sponsors this year are Emera Maine, the Maine Community Foundation, Bangor Savings Bank, and IDEXX Corp.