Environmental Engineering

Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Students will compare the absorptivity of different materials, and their effectiveness for cleaning up oil spills. Environmental engineers frequently use sorbents during oil spill cleanups, since they are simple to use and cost-effective. However, some materials are more effective at separating oil from water, which is what students will test in this lab.


Photo by Jesse Bowser

Wetlands: Nature’s Water Filter

The objective of this lab is to understand how simple natural materials (like plants) can absorb dissolved chemicals and improve water quality. Environmental engineers have based constructed wetlands off the natural properties of wetland plants. Students will examine how plants can absorb pollutants from water.


Photo by Emma Hall

Soil as Battery


Photo by Nicolas Thomas

How Does Soil Protects Groundwater?

coming soon

Photo by Markus Spiske

Berry Organic Solar Energy

Students will use a chemical extracted from berries to build their own solar organic cells which convert light energy into electrical energy. They will also be able to define renewable energy and solar organic cells, as well as describe the benefits and disadvantages to solar organic cells. This lab emphasizes the feasibility and importance of finding renewable energy sources.

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Photo by American Public Power Association

Sorption of Water Pollutants

Through this project, students will learn that certain materials can sorb (“attach”) pollutants from water and understand the basics of sorption processes. Lab also introduces how some affordable materials that we use (and dispose) in our everyday lives can be used for this purpose.


Photo by Louis Reed

Electricity for Water Purification

Students will apply their own solar organic cells (previous lesson) to produce electrical energy  used to purify contaminated water. This lab emphasizes the issues around water contamination, changes in water quality and importance of developing green purification technologies.

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Photo by Ljiljana Rajic

Eutrophication and Algal Blooms

Students will study how fertilizer runoff can significantly change water quality and cause algae bloom, and investigate the differences in eutrophication effect in salt and freshwater.

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Photo by Sergio Souza

Final Visual Project

Students should tie together multiple aspects of this lab curriculum into a final visual project, to practice communicating science. This is an open-ended project that students should base off the previous labs.

Standards Met:
HS-PS2-1. Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (Science and Engineering Practices)
HS-PS2-6. Communicate scientific and technical information (e.g. about the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (including orally, graphically, textually, and mathematically). (Science and Engineering Practices)


Photo by Daniel Kropai