Google Science Fair EMEA winner

A South African girl, orange peels and the Google Science Fair

SA Teen Announced Regional Winner in the Google Science Fair with Solution for Thirsty Crops

I’ve been trying to figure out how to celebrate Women’s Day this year. What can I do on my little blog to make an impact and to celebrate incredible women? Well, this story landed in my inbox awhile back and it seemed like a great way to shine a positive light on girls in the South African tech space. In the past I’ve weighed in on how we get more South African girls involved in STEM subjects (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – if you were wondering) or how sexism might be a barrier to entry.

Today I’m focusing on the positive

Google Science Fair EMEA winner

Kiara Nirghin is a 16 year old school pupil from Johannesburg, South Africa. She also attends St Martins High School (call me biased but I attended St Martins Primary School, so I feel even more proud about this one!). Kiara says she has a love for chemistry. So much so that when she was 7 years old she used to experiment with baking soda and vinegar in plastic cups. She says she has always had an interest in food science – which is where her study in to combatting drought came about.

This year, South Africa suffered one of the worst droughts in more than 20 years. It wrecked havoc on our crops and food sources. This doesn’t only effect our bellies, it also effects our pockets as costs increase and food supplies have to be imported. Kiara came up with a novel way to potentially aid in combatting drought. By using Avocado Skins and Orange Peels Kiara was able to create a material that can hold hundreds of times its weight in water, in the soil.

Kiara created a Superabsorbent Polymer

Google Science Fair EMEA winner

A Superabsorbent Polymer – which is a material that when applied to the soil creates tiny reservoirs. When rain falls these reservoirs absorb the rain water and retains it. These little reservoirs supply plants’ roots with water, even if they haven’t been watered in a long time (like, you know, in the case of a drought). The idea of creating a Superabsorbent Polymer from biodegradable material is kind of awesome. It’s relatively low cost and fantastic for the environment. Plus it solves a real issue. So it makes sense that Kiara won the Google Science Fair Community Impact Award for the Africa and Middle East region.

Kiara could go on to win a Global Award!

Google Science Fair EMEA winner

The award puts Kiara in the running to potentially be named one of the 16 Global Google Science Fair Finalists. If she makes the top 16 she will have the opportunity to visit Google in San Francisco (I would KILL to visit the Google Campus!). We’ll find out if Kiara made it on the 11th of August and I cannot wait. This is so incredibly exciting!

If you want to find out more about Kiara’s submission, entitled No More Thirty Crops, you can head on over here and take a read.

South African women are doing incredible things in the technology space. While we still have a long way to go, it is stories like these that inspire me and give me faith that we can change the world. One orange peel at a time! 

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