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Students Tap Bacteria to Clean Wastewater

December 14, 2015
Published In: Wastewater

…Wait. What?

Yes, there are young people out there making impressive achievements that can boost your faith in the future.

Like the team of students from Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy (OLS) in Canmore, Alberta, who in September earned a Bronze medal in the world's largest international competition for students interested in the field of synthetic biology.

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They use bacteria to produce naturally occurring enzymes that can help break down hair. And that has huge potential for wastewater processors because a lot of hair goes down the drain, and it doesn't easily break down.

Team members from OLS were introduced to the problem throug​h local media, and eventually toured EPCOR's wastewater treatment plant in Canmore to get a firsthand look at the issue.

Six students in grades 9, 10 and 11 worked for more than two years to learn and apply the microbiology protocols involved in genetically engineering bacteria.


But it hasn't been easy. They had to bu​ild a do-it-yourself lab with a makeshift centrifuge from donated equipment and second-hand selloffs, including an old record player to make a rotating table for growing cells.
Results have been promising.

So much so that the team of six teens met the criteria for a Bronze medal of distinction at the latest International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGem) competition in Boston, Massachusetts, which involved 259 university and high school teams from 39 countries.