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Student inventions earn Young Scientist Awards

Shirley Wang and Trisha Chari

Two Meriden girls’ inventions, which have practical applications in emergency situations, have been awarded accolades at the prestigious STA Young Scientist Awards.

Trisha Chari, Year 9, won first place in the Working Technology category for Years 9-10 with her flood detection system. Shirley Wang, who is also in Year 9, received a highly commended award in this category for her invention which disinfects water and generates electricity using solar radiation. Both girls have been invited to submit their work to the BHP Foundation Science and Engineering Awards.

Trisha was inspired to create her flood detector and alarm system after seeing the damage caused by a minor flood in the home of one of her family members.

“Flooding has disastrous impacts on people, especially flooding caused by rising sea levels,” Trisha said.

“Governments usually monitor large floods, but minor floods, which are more unpredictable, are not as well-observed, particularly when they only affect small sections of the community. I wanted to create a solution which would be practical for ordinary households and would effectively monitor flooding in a way that did not place a strain on government resources,” Trisha said.

“My invention detects the presence of water in an area at different levels. Using the buoyancy of cork, any rise in water level causes a block attached to a mercury tilt switch to rise, triggering the switch in response to the change of angle. This closed circuit acts as an alarm system and activates specific alarms and lights in the houses connected to the system as well as in the flooded areas. The invention could be used to detect water levels in a variety of real-life contexts including in flood-prone communities or to monitor dam levels or sea levels.”

Trisha said she would like to continue to find practical solutions to real-world challenges with a career in engineering or physics when she finishes school. Her fellow inventor, Shirley, also wanted to create a tool that would benefit others.

Shirley’s invention could be supplied to people in developing countries or to anyone travelling to areas where access to clean water and electricity is limited.

“My invention is called the ‘Photocatalytic Solar Disinfection and Thermoelectric Generator Composite using Concentrated Solar Power’,” Shirley said.

“Essentially, it is a system that disinfects water by deactivating biological contaminants. It also generates electricity by focusing solar radiation through convex lenses and mirrors and through the use of thermoelectric generators.”

The aim of Shirley’s project was to find a practical solution to the lack of access to electricity and clean water that some communities face.

“I chose this area of research after participating in the Cadets AFT camp,” she said.

“We had limited access to electricity so we boiled water by collecting firewood and heating the water over the fire. This was extremely time-consuming and it made me recall that one seventh of the world lives like this every day, boiling water to make it safe to drink. I wanted to come up with a solution that uses renewable energy to produce electric power and to address this problem of water purity.”

Shirley said studying Science at Meriden has reinforced her enjoyment of the subject area.

“What I love most about Science at Meriden is the wealth of authentic opportunities offered to us to think and work like scientists,” she said.

“I want to create a more sustainable, productive and liveable future and I think science will help achieve this. I have no idea where the future will take me, but I know it is on the path to STEM.”

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