To DailyKos readers the problems of plastic pollution are not new - it sits in landfills for millenia. Floats in the ocean and animals eat it or get caught in it and drown.
The slurry of chemicals from degrading plastic hurts human health, animal health, and soil and ocean health.
Well Daniel was sick and tired of it and came up with a solution for his science fair project.
-- not only because it's gratifying to discuss the ways in which our most urgently pressing environmental concerns are now being tackled by kids doing science projects, but also because of the ideas this development evokes, the further conversations that arise from this observation.
Earlier this month, some colleagues (and quasi-colleagues) of mine had the opportunity to attend the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Atlanta.
Many of the projects in competition at ISEF pertained to environmental concerns, and many of them were no less impressive than Daniel Burd's celebrated plastic-degrading acheivement:
As ecogeeks, we tend to have a number of gadgets around, many of them powered by batteries. When we throw them away, they either go to landfill, where their toxic chemicals pollute the soil and water, or we recycle them, reusing their components.
That’s what 3 Brazilian students are doing, but in a very unique way. Camila da Silva Bruzadelli, Alan Juliano de Andrade and Deborah Asbahr, of Limeira, Brazil, have discovered a way to make pigmentation that can be used in ceramics coloring, from batteries.
So that's one tangent. Another is that, of over 1,500 participants from around the globe, three won top honors, and all three were young women.
Three talented, hard working, and lucky students are the recipients of the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award, which includes a $50,000 college scholarship. This year's winners are:
* Efficient Hydrogen Production Using Cu-Zn-Al Catalysts Prepared by Homogeneous Precipitation Method by Yi-Han Su, 17 from Taipei Municipal First Girls' Senior High School in Taipei.
* Development of Biosensors for Detecting Hazardous Chemicals by Natalie Saranga Omattage, 17, from The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus.
* Computation of the Alexander-Conway Polynomial on the Chord Diagrams of Singular Knots by Sana Raoof, 17 of Jericho High School in Jericho, New York.
I was a nervous high school student competing at ISEF, sharing my research with the judges, and making friends from across the country. Science fairs were easily the most influential part of my pre-college education and probably the sole reason that I am a scientist today. Science fairs took a nerdy, socially awkward, bookworm and transformed her into someone with speaking, writing, investigative skills, and with confidence to take on the world.
The goal of Intel Inspire is to innovate-- not merely in the fields of science and education, but most explicitly in the lives of young people.
I'll be talking more about the ways in which this effort plays out in future posts in this series.