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Oak Ridge Middle School Students Dive Into Pond Scum

The LEGO League Blaster team at Oak Ridge Middle School is inventing new ways to tackle blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria or “pond scum”.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, Blue-green algae can be found in Iowa lakes, ponds and streams. Within a few days clear water can become cloudy or covered in a smelly, scum layer due to an algae bloom. Blue-green algae often form in warm, slow-moving waters that are rich in nutrients, such as fertilizer runoff or septic system overflows. Algae blooms most often occur in late summer or early fall and can produce toxins that can cause illnesses in people and animals such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

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Oak Ridge LEGO Blasters team with Todd Dorman from The Gazette in a recent interview to discuss their innovative approach to remove blue-green algae in area lakes.

The LEGO Blasters team is made up of eight middle school students who are determined to find an innovative solution to this real-world problem and their approach is getting attention.

LEGO Blasters is one of just two teams from Iowa eligible to seek a berth in the 10th annual FIRST LEGO Global Innovation competition in Florida this June. Recently, the team sat down with The Gazette to explain how they’re diving into this water problem.

“Lots of Iowa lakes are filled with blue-green algae that prevents people from swimming or fishing, as well as getting water from the lake. We decided to put diatoms and rotifers in the lakes because they will eat blue-green algae and reduce eutrophication without being invasive.” – Ethan. 8th grade.

The team will find out in April if they headed to Florida to present their idea nationally.