Sometimes you come across something and your only response is, “Wow.”  That is exactly what I thought when I read this article in the TimesDaily from northwest Alabama.

It’s about a group of Sheffield High students and their research project that the Samsung Corporation chose as the Alabama winner in their Solve for Tomorrow contest.  The engineering class also won $20,000 in technology for their school.  They will now compete for a national top ten spot by submitting a three-minute video.

The nationwide competition challenged students to inspire change in their communities, to use science, technology, engineering and math skills to develop solutions to complex issues.

The project involves research on the Zebra mussel and it’s negative impact on the Tennessee River.  Jamie Smith, who teaches Intro to Engineering at Sheffield, is working with the students.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

:”It’s a multilayered project really, and one that’s become much bigger than we’d first anticipated,” she said. “We’re charged to find a solution, and while we don’t believe we can rid the river completely of these invasive mussels, we wholeheartedly believe we can make a difference by impacting their spread.”

The group’s research shows that zebra mussels have been a growing infestation of the Tennessee River since the 1980s with contamination coming from the Great Lakes. The problem originated in eastern Europe during the 1800s.

The mussels are clogging pipe-ways and filtering water, ridding it of food and nutrients that native species of mussels and fish need to survive. “We have native mussels in the Tennessee (River) right now that are suffocating because of these zebra mussels,” Smith said.

The group of students will work with TVA to collect mussels and observe them in a controlled environment to study. They will also involve the district’s fourth-graders in the project as they study the behavior of the species.

Ultimately, the high school team will create a trash grate to collect the mussels. It will go on the edge of the river’s piping system, where the water is pulled from the river. The students must determine a coating for their device that attracts the zebra mussels.

“We’re entering the third phase of this project and we’re still generating ideas as to how to create this device,” said Zane Turner, a junior who is leading the team, along with his sophomore classmate Austin Walker.

“We’ve gotten pretty deep into this and we just want to help with this river situation,” Turner said. “And we really believe we can. We’ve learned a lot already.”

Now you see why I said “Wow.”