FOREST CITY | A group of 4-H members from Forest City have developed the idea of collecting water that's already been used to wash clothes to flush toilets.
The system, which they have named the Washin Flushinator, is their project for the FIRST LEGO League (FFL) international challenge called HydroDynamics.
While doing online research on water conservation, the Forest City team learned about reusing greywater, which is "gently-used" water from bathroom sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines.
Hayden Reynolds, 11, said the team came up with their own idea for re-using greywater.
He said using clean drinking water to flush the toilet is a waste when greywater from a washing machine can be used instead.
The team's plan calls for water that's already gone through the washing machine to be collected in a storage tank, which then pumps the water to the toilet to be used for flushing.
Hayden said the challenge was to figure out how to do all this without "overflowing the laundry room or not being able to flush the toilet."
If the washing machine isn't being used for a few days, the storage tank fills up with fresh water so the toilets still can be flushed, he said.
As part of their project, the team asked local residents to complete an online survey on household water use.
"It's amazing to see how much water we use," said Betsy Marmaras, one of the coaches for the team. "It's kind of embarrassing."
The survey results were "an eye-opener for the kids," she said.
The Washin Flushinater could cut down on household water use by 7,300 gallons per year, according to Marmaras.
The Forest City team is going to Estherville on Dec. 4 to participate in an FFL regional tournament, but they were able to get feedback on their Washin Flushinator project during a mock tournament on Nov. 19 in Garner.
During the mock tournament, the team explained how the Washin Flushinator would work.
The mock tournament, hosted by Hancock County Extension, also featured a Junior Expo for students in grades K-3.
Teams from Garner, Britt and Algona also participated in the event.
In addition to doing a project involving hydrodynamics, FFL teams also must build a robot out of Legos.
During competition teams are asked to use a software program to move their robot in a number of ways, which are referred to as "missions."
Grace Kobriger, 13, a member of the Forest City team, said the most challenging part of building the robot was programming its movements because "some people didn't have programming experience."
Each team also will be judged on FLL Core Values, which include teamwork and gracious presentation.
Forest City team member Gabe Ramirez, 12, said his favorite part of the experience was "working together and coming up with the idea (for the project)."