* By Michelle Buyaki and Clementina Sarange – Akili Dada Alumnae

14 year old Mihir Garimella with her rotting fruit inspired robot, 17 year old Guillaume Rolland and his olfactory alarm clock, 16 year old Eswar Anandapadmanaban and the touchless respirator monitor are just a few of the outstanding innovators in the 2014 Global Google Science Fair competition.

All were young but willing to make a change, clear inspirations to other young people including our very own Akili Dada Club members who developed and submitted their own projects for the 2015 competition.

The Google Science Fair is a global online science and technology competition open to individuals and teams aged 13 to 18. As the saying goes,” An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin. We at Akili Dada believe in making this investment in girls at an early age and saw the science fair as a great opportunity for our dadas to identify issues as well as areas of need in their communities and build innovative solutions to address these issues. We had a team of 18 Akili Dada Club members submit 4 projects including:

Degrading polyethylene to evolve ethylene gas

Due to the resilience of plastic to degradation, the issue of plastic pollution has become a threat to the global ecology and the accumulation of plastic materials in the environment an increasing concern. On top of that, the sight of plastic waste everywhere we look is extremely unpleasant.

Biodegradation is one of the ways to curb this problem. In this project, our dadas worked on degrading polyethylene to produce ethylene gas. The edge of this project is that on top of reducing polythene bags, there is the evolution of ethylene gas. Ethylene gas is needed for the ripening of fruits that do not produce their own ethylene hormone. The project therefore addresses two needs in our environment.

Fermenting organic waste to produce bioethanol

Following the adverse effects of non-renewable sources of energy in depleting natural resources, there is emphasis on developing alternative sources of fuel; more specifically, biofuel. This project involved fermenting of organic waste that the students could access in their environment to produce ethanol. Ethanol produced from fermentation of organic waste can be used as transportation fuel in vehicles. The advantage of this over gasoline is that ethanol is constantly replenished by growing plants as compared to petroleum which is depleted with usage.

Making silk fabric from spider webs

With the aim of cutting cost of clothing for poor people, this group set out to make silk fabric from spider webs. Spider silk is so far the strongest fabric discovered. Due to the availability and accessibility of spider webs around the school, the students found it wise to tap into this resource. After making the fabric, the students used different dyes to make the fabric more appealing. At the end of the day, the group’s goal was achieved because the fabric produced was cheap (since the raw materials are readily available) and does not wear or tear quickly hence reducing the clothing cost of the target group.

Making rock candy by applying crystallization process

Some water, sugar, a bit of patience and you have a self-made treat! Custom made to your liking. The process is really simple. Sugar is put in water to make a solution then heated as more sugar is added to it until a super saturated solution is formed. As the water cools, the sugar comes out and forms crystals around the skewer placed in the solution. You can add a flavor to the crystal at the initial stages and enjoy the tasty treat. This is a simple scientific process that can be applied to suit one’s needs and reduce costs of purchasing candy from the stores.

All the projects were at prototype stage however our dadas had a greater vision to maximize each project’s’ potential  so as to address various community needs. The projects not only addressing the issue of organic and inorganic wastes in our environment but providing cheaper and more sustainable alternatives for communities.