Johannesburg schoolgirl Kiara Nirghin, recently won the Google Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa with her submission “No More Thirsty Crops.”
And now the teen has won the grand prize award at the Google Science Fair.
Some of the brightest young scientists around the world converged at Googleplex in Mountain View for the sixth annual awards‚ which took place on Tuesday at Google headquarters in California.
Nirghin‚ 16‚ a Grade 11 pupil at St Martin’s School‚ based her project on a natural super-absorbent polymer that allows soil to retain massive amounts of water. It won her $50 000 (R677 357) in scholarship funding.
Using orange peel and avocado skins, Kiara Nirghin created a super absorbent polymer (SAP) capable of storing reserves of water hundreds of times its own weight, forming reservoirs that would allow farmers to maintain their crops at minimal cost.
Nirghin’s invention doesn’t just tackle the effects of drought, it also serves a means of converting waste into something useful. The teenager, who is obviously delighted by the result of her home-based experiment, says she would like to experiment further, make large amounts of orange peel SAPs, and apply it to crops such as maize and wheat in poor communities in South Africa.
“Kiara found an ideal material that won’t hurt the budget in simple orange peel, and through her research, she created a way to turn it into soil-ready water storage with help from the avocado,” said Andrea Cohan, program leader of the Google Science Fair.
The inventor says she wanted to tackle the most urgent aspect of the national crisis.
“I wanted to minimize the effect that drought has on the community and the main thing it affects is the crops,” says Nirghin, of St. Martin’s School. “That was the springboard for the idea.”