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Sunday Science: High-Tech Sandbox - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sunday Science: High-Tech Sandbox

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: "Welcome back, we're here at ECHO with Bill Elliston, Public Education Manager, and we're talking about the way water shapes Vermont. And we actually have this really cool exhibit here to tell us a little more about it."

ECHO Public Education Manager Bill Elliston: "This is a special state-of-the art modeling system where we use this special sand that actually has a little bit of polymer in it, and that allows us to make different watershed systems, and then we can pass our hand over it and make it rain and see how the water moves over different landforms."

Reporter: "So what do kids take away from this? What are they learning from putting their hands here and making this blue rain happen? What do they learn about water in the process?"

Elliston: "So it depends on how old the kids are and what experiences they have of course. But the basic ideas are that kids start to understand and adults start to understand how water moves over different land systems. So that it moves downhill and it's going to continue through different topographies. And we don't get as much erosion or things like that in here, but the idea of pathways of water and that if you change the land, the water has to move because of that is really what we're looking at here."

Reporter: "And of course this spring we had quite a bit of water action that kids might have seen in and experienced firsthand. Can they try that out here? Can they say 'My house is on a hill, where does the water go from there?'"

Elliston: "Yeah. They sure can. What you can do with this is you can position yourself -- you can imagine that your house is in one spot, and you can have it rain a little bit or a lot. So you can flood it all the way up or just have a little bit of water and see how that goes down to different lakes or streams."

Reporter: "And why is it important that kids get that early experience with how water interacts with their environment?"

Elliston: It's important because water and land shape our whole environment. So as you know, rivers don't stay in the same path the whole time, for their whole life. They change and make oxbows and migrate from one place to another. So this is kind-of the introduction for kids to really learn how water behaves.

Reporter: "And tell me a little bit about the technology behind this. We obviously have this really neat thing where you can hold your hands up and make the rain happen, exactly like she's doing there. How does that work? What makes this happen?"

Elliston: "What it's doing is it's using a Kinects -- which is up here in the top. That feeds into a computer, which reads the different topography of the sand, and that tells the computer to project with this projector down on different topographic lines and different colors that correspond with different elevations."

Reporter: "So you're learning about water, you're learning about topography, it's kind-of an all-around table."

Elliston: "It's great. And little kids, if they're really young, can just get that experience of building different things."

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