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Aussie science teacher 'comes clean' with innovative water-treatment system

An Australian science teacher is finally coming clean with an innovative water-treatment system that he's been sitting on for more than a decade.

Jacob Strickling, science coordinator at Green Point Christian College on Central Coast NSW, has been sitting on his invention for 13 years and he's now ready to share it with the world.

“I've been sitting on it for years,” Strickling told Yahoo7. “It's time to come clean.”

After building his family home, Strickling needed to install a sewage treatment system but was short about $10,000. So the industrious teacher built his own using salvaged materials and six IBT water tanks for around $1,000.

Council approved the system, but it has never been physically inspected.

“Technically, on paper I've got approval for it – I think they've rubber stamped it,” he said. “The only way I live with myself is that the water that comes out is really good.”

The system has been running for more than a decade and while admits you “probably don't want to grow your veggies with it”, the water is clean. Now Strickling wants to share his system with world for “altruistic reasons”. He'll soon put the design online and is not worried if people rip it off.

“My next plan is to get it industrially tested – actually get it passed as a proper system,” he said, boasting about its capabilities. Meanwhile, raw sewage from neighbours' septic tanks flows into nearby waterways.

“Just because it's made from recycled materials doesn't mean it can't do the same job,” he said ahead of SKYSEF – an international science conference held Shizuoka Kita High School in Japan with a focus on energy and the environment where his students will unveil the system.

In addition to knocking together inventions from repurposed materials, Strickling runs an increasingly popular YouTube channel called “Make Science Fun”. It's full of short videos that show passionate he is about teaching science.

In the videos that often co-star his children, Strickling creates Frankenstein gizmos out of old junk and teaches science through conducting crazy experiments and stop-motion animation with Lego.

Last month the father-of-four was gathering footage for a presentation to be made at the science conference when he rigged up an underwater microphone to call to a pod of humpback whales – and the whales responded.

“I knocked up the little speaker phone just as a bit of gimmick,” he said.

He was on the small boat with the three students, including his son, who are all headed to Japan when they called out to the passing pod.

As teacher and students cooed their best whale song through the crude device, several whales swam toward the boat and started breaching. But the humble scientist is doubtful the whales' display bore a correlation to his experiment.

“To be honest I don't think so … I don't think the vibration was strong enough.”

Each Intermediate Bulk Container costs about $100 as they are a waste product.
Each Intermediate Bulk Container costs about $100 as they are a waste product.

However, Strickling is certain about his water filtration system and hopes to see the low-cost invention is picked up across Australia.

“People in rural areas – they can make this system for $1000 and have a clean-water system,” he said.

As the world deals with a changing climate, the water-filtration system might open floodgates to people wanting to rely less on public infrastructure. For anyone looking to get “off the grid”, Strickling's system is cheap and easy.

“I think something like this would fit in perfectly with that sort of idea,” Strickling said.

“Land's so expensive. If you want to go off grid, this is an inexpensive way of doing that.”