A 16-year-old South African has won the Google Science Fair Community Impact Award, in the Africa and Middle East region.
Johannesburg-based Kiara Nirghin is now in the running to become one of 16 global finalists, who will visit Google Headquarters in California in September for the annual awards celebration. Her entry beat out thousands of others from 107 countries in the region.
The Google Science Fair invites the brightest young minds from around the world to answer one important question: how can they make the world better through science, math, and engineering.
That’s precisely what Kiara has done with her submission, “No More Thirsty Crops”. With the southern African region experiencing its worst drought in more than two decades, Kiara has come up with a way of keeping crops hydrated for longer, at a lower cost.
Using orange peels and avocado skins, the teen has managed to create a material, that can hold hundreds of times its weight in water, in the soil. This super-absorbent polymer then acts as a water reservoir in the earth.
By saving water this way, her idea could have a massive impact on how the continent manages the effects of climate change in years to come. And, because it’s made from orange and avocado skins, it won’t break the budget of local farmers, like so many other water storage devices currently do.
Kiara says she’s been interested in science since a young age. “I vividly remember at the age of seven experimenting with vinegar and baking soda solutions in plastic cups. My natural curiosity and questioning nature has sparked my everlasting love of science.”