Diving below the surface with independent research

Ian Page, Senior Writer

At Liberty, there are eight seniors working on independent science research projects. Two of these students, Christine Chappelle and Jordan Raymond, are working to apply their engineering and environmental knowledge to the waterways of the Pacific Northwest. Since last summer the duo has been building an autonomous submersible, with plans to use it to monitor the water quality of our local wetlands and other bodies of water.
The goal of Chappelle and Raymond’s project was to design a tool for monitoring water quality, specifically focusing on the levels of dissolved oxygen in the watershed. It was also their hope that the data provided by the submersible could be used by Liberty’s environmental courses for labs and offer the AP Statistics course with real world data to analyze.
“We hope to use the sub primarily in Lake Washington and other local areas and be able to one day collect accurate water quality data,” Raymond said.
In addition to levels of dissolved oxygen, the submersible will gather data on water pH and temperature, and will collect water samples.
Since building a submersible is an exercise in trial and error, the team has had to work to fix problems as they’ve come up.
“We usually test our designs once a month at a pool in Newcastle to make sure everything works,” Raymond said. “We’ve unfortunately found that it’s hard to make something waterproof. We are very lucky to have such a supportive staff and I cannot thank Mr. Buchli enough.”
Chappelle and Raymond are currently resolving some problems with balance and buoyancy, but the submersible is able to submerge to ten feet below the surface. The project is scheduled to take a few years to complete and will be passed down to juniors Alex Chapman, Andrew Cooper, Keelan Masterson and Sean Szymanski next year.
“This is a very unique project; it offers an experience that’s more far-reaching than anything else offered by the science or math departments” Chappelle said.