Durban matric pupil avo pips to gold
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ADITI Sookdhaw, 18, from Reservoir Hills, says it’s not necessary for young people to be “rocket scentists” to be innovative in solving world challenges.
Sookdhaw, who is completing her matric year ‒ taking 10 subjects ‒ at Star College in Durban, received a gold award for her scientific research in making bioplastic from avocado seed extracts at the recent 2021 Virtual Indonesia World Innovative Science Fair (Wisf), an international scientific competition which focuses on innovation.
Sookdhaw said the science fair, held from July 10 – 15, included seminars and project judging.
“I would like to thank the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists for giving me this opportunity to achieve more than I ever anticipated.
“Taking part in the Wisf virtual expo was different, but we were still able to present and show our projects to the same audience as if we were in an actual, live expo,” she said.
Sookdhaw has taken part in many science expos and competitions, winning gold, silver and bronze awards, which she said had given her loads of exposure to global scientific innovation.
She said these had given her the opportunity to learn a great deal and become aware of problems facing the world ‒ with a goal to tackle and solve such challenges.
Of her “Polymer Bioplastic: research”, she said: “This project took five or six months of research and 11 experiments of which four were successful, so there was lots of trial and error.”
She chose avocado seeds because they are a good source of starch which she required to develop her bioplastic and the seeds are not a major food source, such as potatoes and rice (also rich in starch).
Sookdhaw said that environmental issues remained “one of the biggest, if not the biggest, problem for my generation”, and that solutions lay in scientific innovation
“Plastic pollution is a major problem. It has become invisible to people because it is so common. People don’t realise how much plastic they use in everyday life. Besides the impact on the environment, it is also a major cost to humans, such as paying for each plastic bag when shopping and those are being sold every day,” she said.
Sookdhaw plans to study computer engineering at university, saying she had an interest in science from a young age which had blossomed while at Star College in Durban.
“It opened up ample opportunities for me to develop my projects. Prior to high school, I would see well-presented research and I never thought I would get to do that.
“This generation needs to move past misconception: you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to succeed. Whatever field you choose, projects start with a basic simple idea and become more complex solutions. It is a lot of hard effort and you have to want to do it yourself. No one else can do it for you,” she said.
Sookdhaw plans to further test her project in terms of organic materials used in the process, as well as more intricate analysis of the procedures itself.
“Hopefully, in the near future, my samples will be mass-produced to replace synthetic plastics, and in future solve a worldwide problem.
Registration is open for participation in Eskom Expo’s 2021 virtual provincial science fairs. Pupils in Grades 4 to 12 can register and upload project documents, including an abstract, research plan and project report by visiting www.exposcience.co.za and clicking on the Expo App. By clicking on the Resources tab on the website, pupils can access valuable resources and easy-to-use templates to assist them with their research projects.
The Independent on Saturday