The Science Group 4 project

DP2 students chose the theme of sustainability for their Group 4 projects. They conducted various experiments that tested different aspects of the organic farm they visited, including the buffering capacity of the soil, pH of the soil, the effect of different types of fertilizers, the effectiveness of hydro turbines and solar power. All students faced challenges they had to overcome.

“Which soil type at Hector’s Farm is the most sustainable for harsh weathering conditions?”

As the monsoon season came to an end, the concern of its effect on plant growth arose. Group 1 took on the responsibility of investigating the sustainability of different soils by testing for their buffering capacity. They did so by titrating sulfuric acid against collected soil samples while measuring the change in pH level. To further understand the soil’s sustainability, Group 1 tested for the water holding capacity of each type of soil. By combining the data from both experiments, they were able to obtain a better understanding of the soil’s sustainability. From their conclusions, they will be able to provide the farm with solutions to maintaining sustainable soils, especially for the upcoming monsoon season.

“How do different types of fertilizers affect soil water holding capacity and water pH?”

Group 2 wanted to test the effect of fertilizers (both positive and negative) on water including contamination and on the sustainability of the soil. They collected soil samples containing different types of fertilizers and through their experiments, they were able to identify the impact fertilizers – organic and inorganic – had on the soil and water, and that regardless of the benefits of organic fertilizer on soil, it does have a negative effect on the pH of water due to which its usage should still be controlled.

“How can we create a functioning micro-hydropower generator prototype and evaluate its efficiency using the stream at Hector’s Farm?” (on the basis of which ideas for a larger system will be suggested for sustainable energy generation)

Group 3 created a prototype of a hydro turbine using wood, glue, plastic bottle caps and a small motor. Upon arriving at the farm, we faced quite a few challenges- our motor was getting soaked by the water, our turbine broke from its base and the flow of the stream was blocked by a couple of large rocks. However, by collaborating with each other, we were able to create a cover for our motor, use a clamp stand to hold the turbine and move the rocks to stimulate a faster flow of water. Using a multimeter that we attached to our motor, we found that our turbine generated a maximum of 1.15 volts of energy. Our next step is to scale up our readings to give us an idea of how much energy would be generated if a large-scale hydro turbine were used at this farm.

“How can renewable electricity be generated in a farm under different weather conditions?”

Group 4 wanted to create a small scale model in which sustainable energy can be generated, in different ways, in order to power different things on a farm. We initially planned and developed a solar system in which renewable electricity can be generated, as there were many spaces that the solar system could be placed so that it would receive exposure towards the sun. A problem which we faced is that this would not operate efficiently during the monsoon season – a period of time which takes up a lot of the year – as there would not be sun rays to make the machinery work. Therefore, we also designed a current-generating ion model, which would work during the monsoon season, as it requires a puddle of water for the ions to move around. Even though it did not generate a lot of voltage (2 volts), recorded using a voltmeter, this is as mentioned a small-scale model, and could be expanded so that it could be used on a bigger scale.

“How does the surface runoff from chemically fertilized farms affect the fertility of an organic farm?”

Group 5 tested the soil from different areas of the farm to see which all chemicals are present in which soil. We did two different tests in 5 different areas around the farm. We started by collecting soil around the farm. With this soil, we went to test the pH. We started by measuring 5 times 5 ml of Reagent pH-1. We then added 2 grams of soil in each test tube containing reagent pH-1. After mixing and letting it sit, the color appeared and we were able to see the pH calculator. We end up coming with a solution to curb this problem and stop it from happening.