DK students win National Geographic Explorer award

Aman K A and A U Nachiketh Kumar team of Indraprastha PU College in Uppinangady won the National Geographic Explorer award. They received the award at the Science Fair - 2019 organised at Google's headquarters in California, USA, recently.

Student scientists, Aman K A and A U Nachiketh Kumar, who received the National Geographic Explorer award at the Science Fair - 2019 organised at Google's headquarters in California, USA, recently, hail from Uppinangady in Dakshina Kannada district.

Aman and Nachiketh from Indraprastha Vidyalaya in Uppinangady, the only two student scientists among the six winners (under different categories) from India, won a cash prize of US dollar 15,000 (about Rs 10.44 lakh). Their science teacher Nishitha K won the Inspiring Educator and cash reward of US dollar 5,000 (over Rs 35,000) for guiding the students in their unique eco-friendly project.

The project titled “Averrhoa Bilimbi – A Natural Coagulant For Rubber Latex”, was in fact inspired by a family secret. Rubber plays an important part in modern life, but chemicals used to solidify rubber during the process had rendered the soil infertile. The duo had come out with extract of locally available 'bimbli juice' as a cheap, environmentally-friendly alternative to the chemical coagulants.

Normally, farmers use formic acid to coagulate rubber latex. The solution released after the coagulation of rubber latex with formic acid remains acidic and makes the surrounding soil acidic when discharged. The fruit juice has a high concentration of oxalic acid, which is useful for cleaning. It also contains acetic acid. Bilimbi extract was used on rubber latex to get better-quality rubber sheets.  

"The preliminary analysis indicated that the Bilimbi extract sample contains primarily oxalic acid and acetate. Density found to be same for both the rubber sheets. We also conducted solvent test using Benzene and turpentine. Bilimbi coagulated rubber sheet is more resistant to heat than Formic acid coagulated rubber sheet," said Aman and Nachiketh who returned to Uppinangady on Friday. 

An elated Nachiketh told DH; "it is a dream come true for us. We began working on his project when we were in the ninth standard and continued it." Research proposals were invited for Google Science Fair at the global level. In the first phase, 1,000 research papers were shortlisted. Among the 100 teams shortlisted as regional finalists, 20 teams were selected as Global Finalists. All 20 finalists were invited to California for the final awards ceremony. 

Of the 20 Global Finalists, four teams were from India, including Aman and Nachiketh Kumar's team. In 2017, both Aman and Nachiketh had won the silver medal at the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering and Environmental Project (ISWEEP), the world’s biggest science fair.

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