Team:Gaston Day School/Project
|We plan on creating a biological nitrate detector. Nitrate contamination is a growing problem all across the world, especially in countries that depend on agriculture. Such contamination can cause methehemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome. This disease prevents the blood from carrying oxygen throughout the body, in a process called cyanosis. The state of North Carolina heavily relies on agriculture to sustain its economy, producing such staples as tobacco, peaches, and cotton.
In the March 4th, 2008 edition of The Fayetteville Observer, journalist Greg Barnes writes about the struggles of families in North Carolina with nitrate-contaminated drinking water. "In 2005, state environmental officials found excessive levels of nitrates in the Voelkers' well and three others... near Stedman[, NC]. The Aquifer Protection Section notified the Voeklers of the contamination by letter in 2006... But [a] recommendation was never made... They stopped only after a reporter told them about the contamination in November... the Aquifer Protection Section recently found contamination in about 40 wells."
It is because of these discrepancies in time, during which serious health risks can occur, that we are doing this project. The Voeklers have 3 young children, who could have become seriously ill - and possibly died. Similar cases exist all over the world, and our goal is to create a cost-efficient nitrate detector that will take a matter of moments to inform the user of the level of contamination, rather than months as it took the Voeklers to be notified. In this manner first- and third-world countries alike will be able to keep their citizens healthy and protected from methehemoglobinemia.
This 2007 National Census of Agriculture for the United States of America highlights the water sheds of this country and how the land around them are being used. It includes such information as the number of farms in specific regions, the amount fertilizers and chemicals used in these areas, and the number of acres worth of crops grown. Page 24 begins the South Atlantic-Gulf regions, where North Carolina is located.
For our project the Gaston Day School iGEM team decided to not only to attempt to create a biological nitrate detector but also demonstrate how a high school team with limited means similar to our situation could establish an iGEM team and compete in the iGEMs competition. Our local newspaper interviewed Sheran Hussain, our founding member, about our team, the iGEMs competition, and the difficulties we are facing.
We have found that, although we do not have the same technology as a university or college, we have the ability to still do many of the experiments that we need to with simple manpower and ingenuity. Our hard work and determination allowed us to complete graduate level work all summer long. Nearly all of the team members hope to continue with the iGEM competition next year, both as incumbent high schoolers and as college freshmen.