female student using 3-D printer

Student’s collaborative research to impact clean water industry

Chemical engineering student Rebecca Hazy spent the summer building a water quality monitor sensor with the 3-D printer at Penn State Greater Allegheny. The goal of her project was to measure conductivity and pollution in waterways and to eventually share the model with third world countries so they could know if their water was safe to drink.

The 3-D Printer was purchased several years ago at the campus with partial funding from a grant called Toys ‘N More, which is a National Science Foundation Grant aimed at increasing the retention of engineering students. The printer works by printing thin layers of plastic and building them up to make a design from the computer.  

3-D printer screen

The 3-D printer screen, showing part of Rebecca Hazy's water quality monitor sensor.

Image: Penn State

Hazy designed her model to build the enclosures for the circuit devises that would be lowered into water and take the measurements. The design is much smaller than a standard water analyzer and would be a lot cheaper to produce. Her goal is to eventually approach water companies and small interest groups to perform their water testing and analysis.

A junior at University Park, from Belle Vernon, PA, she spent the summer at the Greater Allegheny campus to work on the project with Alandra Kahl, Instructor in Engineering, as part of the Multi-Campus Research Experience for Undergraduates (MC REU), a multi-campus program for students in engineering and related majors.

According to the program’s website, the goal of MC REU is to encourage students to continue their research by attending graduate school, and to promote mutual awareness and collaboration between engineering professors at University Park and other Penn State campuses.

The MC REU program pairs students with a faculty member at their home campus as well as a professor at the University Park campus. Faculty work in tandem to mentor students in an independent learning project. This is the second year for the MC REU program.  Hazy also worked with Nathaniel Warner, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering.  Her project was refining a prototype water sensor called the RIFFLE- Remote Independent Friendly Field-Logger Electronics. The Riffle is designed to log water quality data showing conductivity and temperature within a stream. 

female teaching

alandra kahl teaching

Alandra Kahl, Instructor in Engineering, worked with Hazy as part of the Multi-Campus Research Experience for Undergraduates (MC REU), a multi-campus program for students in engineering and related majors. 

Kahl stated that “the MC REU program is a valuable opportunity for students to do focused research as an undergraduate. Rebecca was able to work with faculty on cutting edge water sensors that can be used for her honors thesis and beyond. I would encourage all students to take advantage of this opportunity to become engaged in research early in their academic careers.”

Hazy participated in a summer-end research symposium program at University Park to present her research experience and outcomes in a short presentation as well as a poster. “This was a great experience because I got to connect University Park with the Greater Allegheny campus and collaborate over ground breaking research,” stated Hazy.  “This research can help me to really make an impact in the clean water industry.”