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South African Kiara Nirghin was named the winner of the Grand Prize at the annual Google Science Fair, announced in Mountain View in the US on 27 September. She won $50 000 (R677 357) in scholarship funding.
The 16-year-old Grade 11 pupil attends St Martin’s School in Johannesburg. She worked on a project to alleviate drought in the country. Called “No More Thirsty Crops”, her solution uses orange and avocado peels.
How it works
Kiara created an absorbent polymer from orange and avocado peels that is able to act as a water retainer in soil.
It won her the Google Science Fair Community Impact Award in the Africa/Middle East region earlier this year.She described her invention as creating “mini reservoirs of water in the soil and plants will be able to have a water supply even through drought”.Kiara hopes her project improves food security and the standard of living of many people
“The Google Science Fair took my passion for science and gave me a global platform to share it with the world,” wrote previous Grand Prize winner Shree Bose on the Google blog.When she entered the inaugural science fair in 2011, she targeted the manner in which cancer cells processed energy.“
So, the idea behind my project was to study AMP kinase, an energy protein, to understand its importance in the way ovarian cancer cells develop resistance to drugs. I was 17 when I won the Grand Prize, and my life hasn’t been the same since.”Bose went on to major in molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University, and is now doing her MD/PhD at Duke University School of Medicine.
She attended this year’s final leg of the fair and congratulated the finalists and winners. “You might ‘just’ be teenagers, but you’re also amazing researchers, entrepreneurs, technologists and explorers who are challenging themselves — and all of the rest of us — to make things better.”
The Google Science Fair is a programme for any budding scientists between the ages of 13 to 18, who are invited to solve the world’s biggest challenges using science and technology.This year, the remaining winning projects included:
Scientific American Innovator Award: Ashton Cofer, Luke Clay, Julia Bray from the US for “Fighting foam waste with recycled filters”.
National Geographic Explorer Award: Mphatso Simbao from Lusaka, Zambia for “Keeping farms alive on a budget”.
Lego Education Builder Award: Anushka Naiknaware from the US for “Smart wound care for the future”.
Virgin Galactic Pioneer Award: Charlie Fenske from the US for “Making rockets more efficient”.
Sources: Brand South Africa