Hannah Dear, Cole Rueff, Sen. David Blount, Joe Pearson and Neziah Igwebuike.
Hannah Dear, Cole Rueff, Sen. David Blount, Joe Pearson and Neziah Igwebuike.
Two Madison County sixth graders are among four students who may earn a trip to Washington D.C. to compete for a national science title after their team set its sights on fixing Jackson's ailing water problems.

Cole Rueff of Madison and Joe Pearson of Flora, both sixth graders at St. Richard Catholic School, are members of the first place team that won the eCYBERMISSION Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competition in Mississippi. The other two teammates are Hannah Dear of Jackson and Neziah Igwebuike of Clinton.

The four students were then chosen out of four state winners to compete in the regional competition, which they did Monday. If they win the regional competition, they win a trip to compete in D.C.

"STEM team was a fun and great experience," Rueff said. "We found a problem in our community and tried to solve it to help form a better city."

Pearson added, "We were privileged to be a part of this competition. We understand our research could help many people. Our clear goal is to help the people of Jackson by providing clean, fresh drinking water."

The students chose Jackson's water problems because they had to come up with a problem in a real world situation.

Dear said there are numerous boil water notices for Jackson and they are affected at the school.

"The purpose of our project was to see if it's possible to somehow reduce the number of water pipe breaks," she said. "We get boil water alerts, which cause us to not be able to drink our water for days, sometimes even weeks."

Rueff said they tested several hypotheses, including the effect temperature, pH levels, and the Yazoo clay has on pipes.

They tested the Yazoo clay by mixing the clay and water into a cylinder to see if the clay expanded. The results were inaccurate. They tested the pH level in the water from their homes, as well as the pH level in soil from their homes.

A high pH level can cause corrosion, both on the inside and outside of the pipes.

They also tested the effects of freezing temperature on water in a pipe and concluded they can easily burst.

Igwebuike said if they were to do the project again they would find bigger containers to test the Yazoo clay hypothesis. She said she hopes their project "improves Jackson's water system" and the city "applies our results to the renovation system."

State Sen. David Blount saw a run-through of the presentation on Thursday and was impressed with the overall project.

"I think it's a great project," he said. "I like how y'all picked a practical problem. You know this is a real problem the city has to deal with."

A large percentage of Jackson's water pipes are 50-60 years old an must be replaced. These aged lines cause multiple ruptures each year.