MANILA, Philippines - In celebration of the International Year of Chemistry, the Ateneo de Manila University was among the 10 universities in the Philippines chosen to conduct various experiments on water meant to emphasize the importance of its role in our lives.
The global experiment has been dubbed “Water: A Chemical Solution” and is an initiative by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
Dr. Nestor Valera, chairman of the Department of Chemistry, said the experiment highlights the “appreciation of the role of water in our lives.”
Dr. Rene Macahig, also of the Department of Chemistry, said the experiments aim to show that “chemistry can provide solutions” to the problem of “water as a dwindling resource.”
Valera said “the turnout was better than expected.” A total of four high schools, namely the Philippine Science High School main campus, Marikina Science High School, Miriam College High School and the Ateneo de Manila High School, participated in the event and sent five students each to represent their schools.
The experiments were simultaneously held in different parts of the globe. In Ateneo, aside from the high school students who conducted the experiments last Nov. 17, all Chemistry 2 classes also participated. The water samples were taken from Marikina River since it is the nearest body of water.
Four experiments that were conducted: pH of the planet — which measured the acidity level of the local water sample; salty waters — which measured the amount of salt in the body of water from which the sample was taken; water purification — which allowed participants to purify water using a clarification method; and lastly, solar still challenge — which allowed participants to build a solar still and discover how it can purify water.
At the end of the session, the average results for the first two experiments were: 7.34 pH and 3.12 percent acidity of the water samples taken from Marikina River. The results for the last two experiments were going to take a while longer. All of these results will be tabulated and then sent to the website of the Global Chemistry Experiment.
The experience of young scientists
The participants were grouped with others from different schools. Their excitement while doing the experiments is undeniable. Aside from making new friends, the experiments showed young scientists in action.
Marcus Mendoza of the Ateneo de Manila High School said the activity reminds everyone that “water is a very important part of our world.”
Anna Martinez of the Philippine Science High School also acknowledges the importance of water, saying that “experimenting about water will help us in the future.”
Vinz Solanoy, also from the Philippine Science High School, for his part, said, “Since drinking water is scarce there is a need for other water sources to be cleaned as well.”
Miguel Antonio Brion, a science teacher from Ateneo High School, said it was not only the academic grades that they considered in choosing their delegates but also their “investigatory projects connected to water analysis.”
The young scientists’ groups were each guided by a chemistry undergraduate student from the Ateneo. Jero Santos, a third-year Chemistry MSE student, said that even if the experiments were simple it was good that the participants were able to see “applications of chemistry.”
Chemistry need not be expensive
In the end, the experiments not only showed the high school freshmen who came applications of chemistry but also fostered their love and interest in science.
Aside from certificates of participation given to the participants, a micro/pocket scale was also distributed along with a set of materials for use for their future experiments.
Valera said the distribution of the micro/pocket sale was “part of low-cost instrumentation so public schools will think they can use low-cost materials.” The experiments also proved that chemistry experiments need not be expensive as the experiments encouraged the use of simple materials.
In the end, it is not the expensive materials that matter but the inculcation in the minds of the young of the love for science and to feed their curiosity by encouraging them to take part in activities such as these.
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