June 19, 2012 | The Editors

A different kind of science fair

It’s the BIRTHweigh™ scale that really gets the seventh graders from Salmon Bay School excited. Maybe it’s the three baby dolls PATH staff member Emily Griswold has lined up to demonstrate the device, which helps attendants at births outside of health facilities identify newborns with low weights so the babies can get care quickly.

“Oh!” one boy announces. “I’m naming them Bob, Whitney, and Prince.”

Boy holds up a PATH BIRTHweigh scale, while smiling friends look on.
Students from Seattle’s Salmon Bay School test a BIRTHweigh™ scale. Photo: PATH/Dave Simpson.

His classmates chortle. But still, they all want to know what’s up with the dolls and the thing with a spring that Emily’s holding.

“All right. Who knows where they were born?” Emily begins as hands shoot up. “Not everyone is born in a hospital.”

Engaged in science and technology

Emily and the kids from Salmon Bay met up near our Seattle headquarters recently as part of the Seattle Science Festival, the city’s month-long celebration of science, technology, math, and engineering. PATH has been an enthusiastic participant in the science festival, which gives us a chance to engage young people with the idea that science and technology not only can address problems to improve health, they can do it in some pretty cool ways.

At the Ultra Rice® technology exhibit, for example, students are head down, poking around in small bowls. Their assignment: sort the grains of Ultra Rice from the grains traditional rice. The grains look exactly the same, the kids observe. But there’s an important difference: those fortified using Ultra Rice technology can be packed with vitamins and minerals to help address micronutrient malnutrition.

A clear need for safe water

Over at the next table, two PATH staff members are demonstrating the Smart Electrochlorinator 200, which we’re developing with Cascade Designs, Inc. In just a few minutes, the soda-can-size device can produce enough chlorine—using table salt, water, and electricity from a small battery—to treat 200 liters of water. The idea, the kids learn, is to provide safe water in communities where turning on a tap doesn’t always mean getting clean water.

The seventh graders let that idea sink in. “We can’t drink the water at my uncle’s cabin,” one girl volunteers. “It’s sort of in a swamp.”

She pauses, and glances at the electrochlorinator, which is busily producing another batch of chlorine. Sometimes, she admits, it smells funny at her uncle’s cabin.

Her audience nods knowingly. Now there’s a challenge that definitely needs a solution.

Ultra Rice is a registered US trademark of Bon Dente International, Inc.

BIRTHweigh is a trademark of PATH.

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