South African student wins big at Google Science Fair

International Women’s Day Google Doodle features local artist
South African student wins big at Google Science Fair.

A 16-year-old South African has won the coveted Google Science Fair Community Impact Award, in the hotly-contested Africa and Middle East region. Kiara Nirghin, from Johannesburg, is now in the running to become one of 16 Global Finalists, who will get to visit Google Headquarters in California in September, for the Annual Awards celebration.

The Google Science Fair invites the brightest young minds from around the world to answer one important question: how can they make the world better through science, math, and engineering. That’s precisely what Kiara has done with her submission, No More Thirsty Crops. With the Southern African region experiencing its worst drought in more than two decades, Kiara has come up with a revolutionary way of keeping crops hydrated for longer, at a much lower cost.

Using orange peels and avocado skins, the teen has managed to create a material, that can hold hundreds of times its weight in water, in the soil. This super absorbent polymer then acts as a water reservoir in the earth.

By saving water this way, her idea could have a massive impact on how the continent manages the effects of climate change in years to come. And, because it’s made from orange and avocado skins, it won’t break the budget of local farmers, like so many other water storage devices currently do.

Kiara says science has been coursing through her veins since a very young age, “I vividly remember at the age of 7 experimenting with vinegar and baking soda solutions in plastic cups. My natural curiosity and questioning nature has sparked my everlasting love of science,” she says. It’s her love of chemistry and physics that has gotten her this far in the competition, with Google receiving thousands of entries from 107 countries.

To see the competition Kiara was up against from Sub-Saharan Africa click here. Some ideas included a new take on solar and steam energy with a “periscope-derived” energy device in Kenya, and portable energy solutions to modernize rural communities in Cameroon.

Kiara finds out on the 11th of August whether she’s made it to the Global final 16. To find out more on her and the other finalists’ progress, what they stand to win, and other information about the global competition, check out the Google Science Fair site.

Staff Writer