Friday, October 11th, 2013
An 11-year-old Florida boy has won the top prize at a major science fair with his invention of a sandbag that could save property and lives in the event of saltwater floods. More from NBC News:
“Living in Florida, I’m keenly aware of hurricanes and saltwater flooding,” the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge grand prize winner Peyton Robertson, who is a sixth grader at the Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., told NBC News.
“Super-storm Sandy really got me concerned about how people can prepare for that damage from flooding. But today, the most common method of flood protection is sandbags. They are really heavy and difficult to transport and leave gaps in between the bags. So, I redesigned the bag,” he explained.
Instead of sand, his bag is filled with a mixture of salt and an expandable polymer. When dry, it is lightweight, easy to move and easy to store. Once the bag is positioned, such as to create a barrier around a house, users hose it down with water. The polymer absorbs the water, swells and fills the volume of the bag.
“I use salt so they are heavier than any approaching seawater … but the twist is when you add salt to the bag it reduces the swelling of the polymer so you need to recalculate how much you put in,” Robertson explained.
In other words, the young scientist, who is already taking pre-calculus and trigonometry, realized an interaction between his super-absorbent polymer and salt that required him to calculate the precise mixture to add to the bag so that the full volume fills when water is added.
The bags also have a novel interlocking mechanism that connects them at their midpoints in order to prevent gaps that floodwaters can penetrate.
Robertson tested the bags in the bathtub and a kiddie pool where they easily outperformed traditional sand-filled sandbags. He next hopes to test them “in a real hurricane situation because that is the only way to figure out what glitches or whatever might be in the solution.”
As winner of the Young Scientist Challenge, he was named “America’s Top Young Scientist” at an award ceremony on Tuesday that also comes with the $25,000 check, which he can spend however he pleases, though has expressed interest in saving it for college.
Image: Sandbags, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
The beloved children’s character Elmo–a Sesame Street Muppet–went on the radio in New York City this morning to talk directly to children who were feeling unsettled and frightened in the wake of the superstorm Sandy, which had particularly damaging effects on the city and surrounding areas. From NBC News.com (the Elmo segment is linked to from the NBC page):
On Tuesday morning, “Sesame Street’s” Elmo visited Brian Lehrer’s WNYC’s radio show and spoke directly to his young audience. And as it turns out, the Muppet is a hurricane pro, having been through a scary storm on “Sesame Street” in the past.
Well, the wind started blowing really bad, and we had to put tape on windows and stuff,” he explained of the episode. He even had to help his pal Big Bird put his nest back together after the storm destroyed it.
Joining Elmo and host Lehrer was Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, the vice president of education and research for Sesame Workshop. She explained that the episode was created long before Sandy or even Hurricane Katrina. It was meant to help parents if their kids should ever face a similar storm.
“‘Sesame Street’ is based on a whole child curriculum, and so we focus not only on the cognitive skills, but social and emotional skills of children,” Truglio said. “We wanted to have a community show like this where we could model for parents tips — so that we could model how you prepare for a storm and how you get through the storm with activities … and keeping your child calm and safe.”
As for Elmo, he took a question from a fan who wanted to know if he was scared on Monday night, as Hurricane Sandy hit his hometown.
“Yeah, but Elmo was with his mommy and daddy, so Elmo asked a lot of questions and learned a lot about what was happening,” he assured.
Image: Elmo, via PBS.org
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Sunday, October 28th, 2012
Two million school children in 7 East Coast states are going to be home from school Monday because of the massive storm that is a convergence of Hurricane Sandy and two winter storm systems. CNN.com reports that the federal government and a number of public transportation systems are also shut down for the duration of the storm.
On a personal note, your intrepid PNN blogger is within Sandy’s reach – near Boston – so if the blog goes quiet, you’ll know my power and/or Internet connection has gone out. Here’s hoping to see you all tomorrow!
Image: Waves crashing, via Shutterstock
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