Spotlight on EdCC: Volcanoes and rain garden research

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Professor Robin Datta with students Sahayra Barojas and Robert Kingen
Professor Robin Datta with students Sahayra Barojas and Robert Kingen.

Undergraduate research is a hallmark of distinguished universities, such as Stanford and University of Washington. But at Edmonds Community College, Professor Robin Datta, along with a team of faculty, administrators, and staff, intend to establish undergraduate research as a cornerstone of the two-year institution.

Recently, Professor Datta, with students Robert Kingen and Sahayra Barojas, presented their undergraduate research findings to EdCC’s Foundation.

Kingen’s project focuses on energy storage. According to Kingen, containing energy in batteries is limited, as shown by Samsung’s exploding phone batteries. Now imagine using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and pack the hydrogen gas into a storage container that is placed in a space that compresses the energy. That is Kingen’s dream: to improve electrical storage by putting it offshore, 3000 feet below the surface, near a volcano.

With assistance from a research team and Skip Himes of Port of Seattle, Kingen spent eight hours on the water with energy stored 500 feet below. “Compressors take 30-50 percent of the energy,” said Kingen, “but if you put it 3000 feet underwater to get the pressure, then it can be more efficient.”

Although the efficiencies data was lost when a short destroyed the work, Kingen plans to build on his efforts, with help from John Delaney, professor of oceanography at the University of Washington. “We want to connect to a data line located at an underwater volcano 300 miles off the Washington coast,” said Kingen. “We want to be next to the volcano because pressure and heat will increase efficiency of electrolysis.”

According to Kingen, undergraduate research like his is “important on so many levels…it also benefits the (school) and future employers.”

EdCC’s undergraduate research can also be put into use immediately. EdCC student Sahayra Barojas’ project is poised to make a difference today.

Barojas worked with Tom Murphy, EdCC professor of anthropology, and a research team of students to use social research and doorbelling surveys to understand citizen attitudes toward rain gardens versus stormwater runoff. “Nine out of 10 people,” said Barojas, “when presented with rain gardens, prefer them.”

Barojas’ team project, in partnership with City of Edmonds, Snohomish Conservation District, Nature Conservancy, and Boeing resulted in a community-based stormwater survey and solutions for the Perrinville Basin. Thanks to the study, areas around Perrinville may get a “green makeover.” Details can be found here.

To learn more about EdCC, see the college website. And to support students by improving access, excellence, and success, consider donating to the Edmonds Community College Foundation.

 -By Janette Turner

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