This is Hannah from Dr. Boyer's group. This month flew by and ended on such a good note with Night of the Open Door. I thought I would share our experience from the night especially since it was our first time participating. Well, it was quite the success! We had no idea what to expect going in. People had told us it was a big night and that a lot of ASU participated, but we didn't expect it to be as busy and widespread as it was. What an incredible event for the public. We had our table set up in ISTB4 on the 3rd floor. Our table name was "Urine for a surprise”, so as you can imagine that name coupled with our waterless urinal set up got a range of reactions. Some people would just laugh while others had the most puzzled look on their face. They would look at the sign then the table and you could tell they were thinking, “This isn’t actually about pee is it?” We also had a PeePod by our table which is a huge 4-person waterless urinal porta potty used at festivals that was given to us by a collaborator that we are currently working with. We hope to use them in the future to help us collect real urine. We had so many people come up just to ask what it was.
For our table, we had decided to do a precipitation experiment to show how we can recover the valuable nutrients in urine. We mixed in calcium and nitrogen and talked about the composition of urine. We added yellow food coloring to the solution because urine is of course yellow (if you’re dehydrated). Once the child mixed it all up, we had them pour the “urine” into the waterless urinal and flowed out the back into a beaker. We then mixed in some phosphate to cause a quick precipitation. The precipitates would collect and the bottom and we explained how that would be the “plant food” someone could use on their garden at home.
It was such a fun experiment to do with the kids because what child doesn’t want to talk about pee and play with a urinal? I was also surprised to see how much the parents/adults really engaged in the experiment. They would pay close attention and once it was finished they normally had a good amount of questions ready.
We also were able to ask some questions that really helped us assess what kind of knowledge all different ages of people have about urine and wastewater. For example, many people didn’t know where wastewater went once you flushed it down the toilet. The sewer and water treatment plant were the closest answers. This was really helpful for us to gauge what level of education to start with. Sometimes as engineers and scientists, we forget that without all of our schooling we might not know these seemingly obvious facts either.
Night of the Open Door was such a great opportunity to share our research with the public. It is always encouraging to see people interested in science especially kids. We can’t wait for next year. Dr. Boyer has some big ideas for 2018.