A 13-year-old girl from Odisha’s backward Koraput district bagged a prestigious $10,000 award at the finals of the Google Science Fair in the United States late on Tuesday for her low-cost water purifier using corn cobs.
Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai will be supported in her research for one year by the well-known journal, Scientific American, for winning the Community Impact Award that honours projects which make a practical difference by addressing environmental, health and resources challenges.
“It is a big achievement for a student from a backward district to sparkle in a global platform. Her achievement will boost the confidence of other children to make their dreams a reality,” said Pallabi Mahapatro, Srisai’s mentor and teacher.
The class 9 student at Delhi Public School, Damanjodi, was the only Indian among the eight winners at the renowned fair. Five others are of Indian origin — three of them are from the US and one each from the United Kingdom and Singapore.
“Lalita has made Odisha and the country proud with her achievement,” state chief minister Naveen Patnaik said.
The project used the scientific principle of adsorption – where contaminants are trapped on the surface of a material, creating an outside coating and purifying the water of the pollutants – to clean domestic waste water using corn cobs collected from farmers.
The cobs were sun-dried for a month and then cut into long and small pieces, ground to power and burnt in proper condition to form activated charcoal. The waste water was then passed through all the different layers, and it was found that most industrial effluents and chemicals were absent from the treated water.
In her project report, Srisai said a byproduct of man’s action is the severe waste burden on the earth, while rapid development in lifestyle and technology has accelerated the release of contaminants into air, water and land, rendering it unsafe for organisms.
“This study reveals a novel and cheap method of cleaning water waste from domestic and industrial sources by utilizing one of the most under-utilised agricultural wastes,” it observed.