Monday Good News: Teenage Excellence

by Lana Rafaela


In this week’s instalment of Monday Good News, we are all about teenage (scientific) excellence.

As some of you may know, Google Science Fair recently announced 16 global finalists in this year’s fair. It’s a competition dedicated to popularizing science, open to students from 13 to 18 years old. All of them have a common denominator: they all want to change the world for better, and we want to see them succeed.

The first project that caught our eye is the one that won the Community Impact Award – “No More Thirsty Crops”.

Motivated by the fact that South Africa is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in 45 years, a 16 year old student from South Africa, Kiara Nirghin, invented a low-cost way to combat drought by using a biodegradable super absorbent polymer made out of (wait for it) orange peels!

Photo by Zamokuhle Mdluli

To put it into perspective, commercially used acrylic super absorbent polymers cost $2,000 to $3,000 per metric ton, whereas her “orange peel mixture” would cost $30 to $60 per metric ton. It is a sustainable solution for the drought problems South Africa is currently experiencing and it contains no chemicals whatsoever. Orange skin, avocado peels and a little love is all it takes to create a polymer that could store water in soil and increase food security by 73%.

But Kiara doesn’t want to stop at that. If her experiment achieves success in the fair, she hopes to experiment further with the same orange peel SAP, in experiments testing water filtration and oil removal from water.

You can follow her project on Google Science Fair’s official site.

And on the other side of the world, two teenage Brazilian students, João Gabriel and Letícia Pereira (15 and 18 years old), proved that seeds of a plant, moringa oleifera, can be used to filter contaminated water.

Moringa oleifera at work

After the incident in Mariana, where a broken dam left people without easily-accessible drinking water, the two inventors decided to find a chemical-free solution for filtering water.

Unfortunately, their project “Magic Seed: Transforming Polluted Water Into Drinkable Water” didn’t place among the global finalists, but there is no doubt that it will be useful.

What these three young inventors have in common is that they have decided to be the positive change they want to see in the world and when faced with a crisis, they did not remain passive. Instead, they chose to find practical solutions.

How’s that for adolescent ignorance?

You can find out more about Lana Rafaela on her author page.

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Post Author: Lana Rafaela

Lana Rafaela she still hasn't run into a waddle of penguins screaming at the top of her lungs. You can read more about her on her author page.

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