ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — Although she was raised in the United Kingdom and in the United States, Professor Usha Rajdev says the place she was born in has always been in her heart.
60 years after she left, Rajdev returned to Uganda — this time with an experiment in tow. Rajdev modified the Smithsonian’s Mosquito! Module to suit high school students in Uganda. With some class time, experiments, and trial and error, Rajdev says the students learned to love the solution to preventing mosquito breeding: a recycled plastic water bottle or an old tire, filled with water and a bit of sugar.
This sustainable solution isn’t targeting grown mosquitoes; it’s attacking the larvae. Rajdev says since July, a Ugandan school nurse has seen a decrease in cases of malaria among students and faculty.
Rajdev keeps up with the students once a month using an online webinar. She says the students are always excited to show her their mosquito trap designs. Rajdev is always excited to show them the view of Washington, D.C. from her window.
Some Ugandan students might be able to see that view in person. They’ve entered a Smithsonian competition for teenagers who’ve developed a sustainable solution to a problem. If they’re selected as finalists, Rajdev says the some of the students will be flown to the United States.
While she’s crossing her fingers for her students in Uganda, Rajdev’s brought the experiment Stateside. Her 11-student undergraduate Math and Science Methodology class is engaging in similar research. On Wednesday, they started constructing their own mosquito traps based on what they’d learned.
One group doused a plastic bottle with sweet scented perfume to attract mosquitoes. Another brought in two bottles — shaped differently — to test how they might attract mosquitoes.
Rajdev says one of the best parts about this activity — both in Uganda and in the United States — is that the knowledge and solution are sustainable. She says her Ugandan students started bringing what they’d learned to the community; cleaning up stagnant water.
This summer, the Ugandan students will have the chance to become STEM certified through Marymount University’s STEM Certificate Program. In July — one year after they embarked on their STEM initiative — the students are expected to present their research materials to a team of Marymount faculty.