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ASU awards young solution-creators at Intel's science and engineering fair

Intel ISEF Sustainability Solutions Award
June 17, 2014

Imagine 1,700 high school students from more than 70 countries presenting their world-saving cures, methods, products or revelations to hundreds of scientists, professionals, professors and judges in one place. That’s exactly what happens at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), held this year in Los Angeles, May 11-16.

The students competed for more than $5 million in scholarships and prizes. Arizona State University’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives honored Lewis Nitschinsk from Australia, Hans Pande from Utah, Shreya Nandy and Kopal Gupta from India, and Naveena Bontha from Washington each with a $2,500 ASU Sustainability Solutions Award for their projects that break academic boundaries and solve real-world issues.

“We want to recognize these young leaders of our future to encourage them to pursue the solutions they create that address food security, climate change, health threats and more,” said Kelly Saunders, Sustainability Solutions Award presenter and project coordinator for the Initiative’s Sustainability Solutions Festival. “Our world’s future is represented by these students who want to make the world a better place.”

Nitschinsk discovered a way to harvest phosphorus from wastewater treatment plants for use as fertilizer. Increasing demand for fertilizer to feed the Earth’s growing population is stressing natural phosphorus supplies. Nitschinsk’s solution could ensure a sustainable and renewable source of phosphorus.

“When my name was called for the ASU Sustainability Solutions Award, I was incredibly surprised,” Nitschinsk said. “Going up on stage with everyone cheering for me was a truly special moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Hans Pande developed an affordable solar-powered water purification device that uses UV light to clean unsafe drinking water at a rate of 3 gallons per minute – faster and more efficient than competing methods.

“I am very thankful for this Sustainability Solutions Award and its funding, which I am planning to use to further my research and improve my apparatus,” Pande said. “I am honored to receive this award, and I feel a duty to use this award to help as many people as I can in the developing world through sustainable practices.”

Gupta and Nandy wanted to create a more reliable and available method for detecting and removing harmful pesticides on produce. Going beyond the widely-used paper strips that only warn consumers of pesticides, Gupta and Nandy’s paper strips also come with activated carbon to use with water to clean the produce.

“I entered the Intel ISEF with the aim to provide mankind with a pesticide-free diet, and wanted to develop a solution that is affordable for all, user friendly and self-sufficient,” Nandy said. “Intel ISEF has given me huge exposure to showcase my hard work, which gives me motivation to do more research like this.”

And Bontha has a solution for all carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that’s warming our planet: metal organic frameworks, or very porous metal compounds that capture and store carbon dioxide. She plans to use the Sustainability Solutions Award to further fund her research and testing.

“It has been my dream to be in the Intel ISEF since my first science fair in sixth grade,” Bontha said. “I am incredibly excited to win the Sustainability Solutions Award. Winning this special award is priceless.”

Before saving the world, the students will first tackle high school graduation and enter college, which should be a breeze for these rising innovators.