02.17.2020  |  News

Introducing The Girl Scouts to Engineering through Water Filtration


What happens when The Girl Scouts get together with Kennedy Jenks’ engineers?


Earlier this month, Kennedy Jenks hosted more than 30 Girl Scouts in our Irvine, California office to introduce water and environmental engineering opportunities to Title I students from the Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio’s Classroom to Career Program. This Girl Scout Classroom to Career program is unique in that it’s a grant-funded program “designed to tackle technology and gender wage gaps, poverty, low educational attainment, and the low numbers of women pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math careers”, benefiting low and moderate income girls and girls of diverse backgrounds. Read more about their program here.

Engineers, Melanie Rivera and Kajori Purkayastha, led the Girl Scouts through a conversation about human water use, sustainable water resources and drought, and treatment of recycled water. Many of the Girl Scouts had questions about engineering careers surrounding creating safe and reliable water resources, as well as why some water tastes different when drinking from different taps.

These Girl Scouts got hands-on experience in designing and operating a mini wastewater treatment system in our water filtration activity. Using the knowledge from Melanie and Kajori’s presentation, they were able to design a filtration system using a large water bottle and varying filtration medias to remove contaminants such as:

  • Litter (shredded paper plates)
  • Chemicals (red food coloring)
  • Earth (potting soil)
  • Motor Oil (soy sauce)
  • Road Salt (baking soda)
  • Animal/Human waste (popcorn kernels)


It was a joy to watch the students working as a team and trying different designs while discussing the reasons they thought certain medias would filter contaminants better than others.


water filtration activity

When it came time to test their water filtration systems, we observed characteristics about each system that filtered water slower or faster, and removed more contaminants than others. The Girl Scouts discovered that several different engineering designs may all filter wastewater, but they will vary in quality of water and speed of filtration. This discovery led to the discussion of how different clients have varying priorities for their treatment plants, depending on how many people they serve, how quickly they need to supply clean water, and their budget.

up close view of the filtered water

Then, an unexpected question we received led to even further discovery:

“How can we remove the red food coloring from the water? Do chemicals stay in our water?”

Using one of the filtration systems as a demo, we discovered with the Girl Scouts that adding in small amounts of diluted bleach to the filtered water, (which contained baking soda as a contaminant) created a chemical reaction that neutralized the red food coloring. While it did not make the water clear, the students understood better how wastewater must go through further treatment after filtration to really make it safe to drink.

testing filtered water

We understand the importance of empowering and encouraging girls to consider STEM careers for their future, and we are please to work with programs such as the Girl Scout Classroom to Career Program. The Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio asked incredibly thought-provoking questions and there is no doubt they all have bright futures in the STEM field.

Kajori, Christina, and Melanie
Kajori Purkayastha, Christina Rice, and Melanie Rivera


© Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, Inc. 2020. All rights reserved. This information may not be copied, reproduced, or distributed without written permission.

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