Free CD-ROM Explores Science Behind Environmental Clean-Up

08/14/02    Portland, Ore.

Multimedia CD-ROM from OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering shows how scrap metal technology reduces groundwater pollution

What can you do with piles of old brake drums and other corroded iron scrap metals? Grind them into pebble-sized pieces, bury them in the ground, and use them to clean contaminated groundwater.

That's the story behind a fun new educational CD-ROM now available from OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering. The CD-ROM, Metals for Environmental Remediation and Learning (MERL), tells the story of the accidental discovery, commercialization, and acceptance of a groundwater clean-up technology that is one of today's leading environmental remediation techniques. The free CD-ROM is intended for high school-, college-, and graduate-level chemistry and environmental science instructors and students, environmental engineers, environmental consultants, industry environmental managers, government regulators, and anyone else interested in the chemistry behind today's environmental clean-up strategies.

Local students take lead role in CD-ROM development
The MERL CD-ROM (http://cgr.ese.ogi.edu/merl) was written, programmed, designed and voiced over several summers by undergraduates from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., and interns from several Portland-area high schools, including Westview High School in Beaverton and Century High School in Hillsboro, with feedback from students at Lakeridge High School and Catlin Gabel in Portland. The project was directed by Paul Tratnyek, Ph.D., an environmental scientist at OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering, which is based in Hillsboro, Ore., and Barbara Balko, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.

"We think this educational CD-ROM is a good example of where science education should be headed," said Tratnyek, an associate professor in the department of environmental science and engineering at the OGI School of Science & Engineering, who has studied remediation techniques for 15 years on such contaminants as chlorinated solvents, nitrate, arsenic and explosives. "Often in science, students are taught abstract principles first, and real-life examples of science second," he added. "But studies show that students learn better when they experience scientific developments in context." The CD-ROM is unusual in following the remediation process step by step, from accidental discovery to practical application.

The MERL CD-ROM uses simple analogies to explain concepts of chemistry, geology, materials science and engineering as they relate to environmental technologies. For example, the chemistry that removes contaminants from groundwater also is used to generate heat in some hand-warmer inserts used by skiers.

"Besides teaching students the science behind groundwater remediation, the CD-ROM illustrates the teamwork and interplay between scientists that is so essential to discovery and addresses the process of technology transfer -- that is, taking ideas from the lab to the market," said Tratnyek. "Because the CD-ROM is written and programmed by students, it is easy for students to understand the scientific concepts and for teachers to play off the different experiments that are highlighted."

Creation of the CD-ROM was funded by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation and EnviroMetal Technologies, Inc., with in-kind contributions from a wide range of Portland-area companies and institutions, including Intel, CH2M Hill, Cache and Pacific University in Forest Grove.

To receive a free copy of the MERL CD-ROM, e-mail merl@ese.ogi.edu, or mail the request to: Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, OGI School of Science & Engineering at OHSU, 20000 N.W. Walker Road, Beaverton, OR 97006-8921.

ABOUT THE OGI SCHOOL OF SCIENCE & ENGINEERING
The OGI School of Science & Engineering (formerly the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology) became one of four specialty schools of Oregon Health & Science University in 2001. OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering has 63 faculty and more than 300 master's and doctoral students in five academic departments.

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