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Young innovators represent Kenya at Los Angeles fair

By JAMES WANZALA | June 1st 2014

Kenya was represented by four students in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2014   in Los Angeles, USA.

The four were selected from a national science fair held at Kisii High School in June last year.  During the competition in Kisii, 374 projects were submitted by 748 participating students. Two of the innovative students, Daryani Kunvarji Vasta and Priyal Parbat Varsan,  were from Shree Catchi Leva Patel Samaj School, Nairobi.

The other two, Janvi Jiten Pabari and Nishta Amrish Patel, represented Kisumu’s Jalaram Academy. During the annual congress in the US, 1,700 young scientists from different parts of the globe took part. This year’s contest from May  12 to 16  was sponsored by Intel. Apart from Kenya, only two other African countries, South Africa and Nigeria, took part.

Generation Next caught up with 15-year-olds Daryani and Priyal who are in Form Two and Form Three respectively.

“We set out to find an alternative of diesel from a fungus that has similar hydrocarbons,” explained Daryani. The fungus, Gliocladium Roseum that grows on trees, produces substances that are similar to petroleum products, which can be used as fuel. “We were inspired by an online article, Effects of Diesel on Environment, that said the fungus was found on the Umol tree in Argentina. Since we could not access the tree, we researched and found out that the fungus can also be found in tomatoes and grapes,” added her teammate Priyal.

Armed with the idea, they approached their Chemistry teacher who gave them more articles on diesel fuel to help with their research. Articles from Prof Gary Strobel were also of  great help.

The duo went ahead and collected tomatoes and grapes, identified and nurtured the fungus to generate the hydrocarbons.

The other two project by the students involved the development of  a multiple chemical generator that reduces pollutants  in air and  water   in a cost effective way.

“The fair now is the world’s largest high school science research competition, and encourages and empowers students to explore their passion for developing new innovations that will positively impact the way we work and live,” Intel East Africa Head of Corporate Affairs Suraj Shah explained to this writer.

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