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October 28, 2016

The Flint water crisis: Engineering researchers find answers for alarmed residents

In 2015, engineering researchers funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) helped to uncover the dangerously high lead levels in Flint water, and listened to a community in distress.

Through a NSF Rapid Response grant awarded to Virginia Tech civil engineering professor Marc Edwards, researchers received federal funding to collect data on the chemical content of residents' drinking water, providing vital insight into one of the worst human-made, engineering disasters in recent U.S. history.

For young engineers at Virginia Tech, the situation was also a critical lesson on the importance of listening. Edwards, along with medical ethnographer Yanna Lambrinidou, have also received NSF funding to teach young engineers the importance of ethics in engineering research and daily practice. The course explores the relationship between engineering, science and society, and challenges young engineers to listen more carefully to the voices of the communities they serve. The Flint situation was the class case study for 2015.

Credit: NSF/Virginia Tech

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