Scouts learn about water engineering
At the end of July, a group of 16-20 year-olds from the international Roverway Scout Camp learned more about the Water Laboratory at Aalto University’s School of Engineering. The scouts attending the camp came from countries like Belgium, Austria and Norway. Lasting more than a week, the event was hosted by Finland for the first time.
The scouts that selected the water path at the camp travelled from Lake Päijänne to Helsinki and collected water samples from Päijänne, the Tarttila well in Valkeakoski, Kumpulanpuro Brook in Helsinki and the Baltic Sea. The samples were analysed with appropriate equipment at the Water Laboratory. At the same time, the research staff at the laboratory provided the scouts with information about which processes are part of purifying drinking water.
Thomas Banafa, who is working on his Master's thesis, told the scouts about studying Water and Environmental Engineering at Aalto University.
Water reveals a lot of information
A technician at the Water Laboratory helped the young people analyse the water samples by measuring their pH value, salinity, ammonia and nitrate content, and hardness. Fertilizers applied to fields are the main source of nitrates in the water system. The samples were also tested to determine the amount of organic matter in them and how well they conducted electricity. Water hardness was analysed because it affects the durability of water pipes. Calcium is added to tap water in Finland in order to make the water harder and to increase people's intake of the calcium that is beneficial to the skeletal system.
After the analyses were completed, the results were compiled in a table for conclusions. The results showed that, despite its murky colour, water from Tarttila well is drinkable even without treatment. However, all of the samples contained organic matter, which reduces water quality. Laboratory technician Aino Peltola told the scouts that tap water in Finland is of better quality than bottled water, which has been standing longer than tap water
Water samples collected by the scouts were analysed to determine the amount of organic matter contained in them.
Making a career in water
According to Riku Vahala, Professor of Water and Wastewater Engineering, it's important for Aalto University to work with events like Roverway. This co-operation helps to ensure that gifted students find their way to the university. "In order to provide young people who are considering where they want to study with information, Aalto University has to take an active role in various national and international events," states Vahala.
Vahala also emphasises the importance of international co-operation: "In the future, an increasing number of students will be international, especially in the Master's degree stage, and this is why co-operation cannot be restricted only to Finland. Experience has also shown that participation in international projects leads to mutual learning in which the staff also obtains new ideas for their main job, which is research and teaching."
Elise Moldskred (17) from Norway considers it important to keep drinking water clean and drinkable so that people won't get sick. Elise has been a scout since she was 7.
Professor Vahala considers it important to teach young people about different areas of water engineering: "The future of water engineering is as bright as its students. In Finland, clean drinking water and a high level of wastewater treatment are considered self evident, but this is definitely not the case everywhere in the world. Young people already become aware of this while attending school, but they rarely think that water could also provide them with a very interesting career." According to Vahala, the goal of the Water and Environmental Engineering programme is to educate motivated, gifted young people to become the best experts in the country, and thus all water-related visibility is beneficial.
From the Water Engineering department, the scouts continued on to the Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant. There, they were shown how the used water is discharged into the Baltic Sea after going through a number of different treatment processes.
Text: Veera Henriksson
Photos: Nita Vera