Senior Mason Sufnarski Places at the International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF)
The International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the world's largest and most prestigious pre-collegiate science competition. To qualify, about 7 million students from over 70 countries compete at their regional and state fairs for about 1,800 finalist spots. Mason qualified directly from the Charlotte fair by having the top project in the region!
Mason's project: (written in his own words)
This year, my project was entitled "Sustainable Subsistence: A Low-Cost Method of Greywater Recycling for Hydroponic Agriculture." Since July, I've worked with Josie Barber, a student from Seattle, Washington, over Zoom to design a novel greywater recycling, hydroponic distribution device and verify its efficacy with proof-of-concept testing. Josie and I met in a Duke Pre College course, where we initially acquired the idea, but I have since served as project leader, meeting every week to carry out experimentation.
As for a breakdown of the actual project, the device is a low-cost, modular system that can recycle greywater for hydroponic agriculture. It employs low-cost, locally sourced plumbing parts and organic filtration materials, which allows greywater to be produced in a washbasin, recycled organically, and dispersed to hydroponic tubes with a nutrient solution.
We were inspired by the resource inequity problem in South Africa, where low-income populations simply lack access to the expensive, albeit cutting edge, resources available to high-income, urban populations. Essentially, while effective solutions exist (for water scarcity, global health, etc.), they're really only half-effective if they only address half the population; therefore, the development of more low-cost, efficient solutions is crucial to creating and sustaining a more equitable world. Thus, with our target population in mind, we designed a low-cost system that is ergonomic, space-efficient, and 80-100% more cost-efficient than existing systems. Moreover, due to its hydroponic features, it can reduce reliance on acidic soils which have recently affected agricultural downturn and food shortages through unreliable growth mediums. We estimate that it can provide approximately 120 lettuce plants per year, although more testing is needed to determine other plant yields. Additionally, while South Africa was our inspiration, we estimate a target population (all low-income, water-scarce countries) of 2.7 billion people.
Mason and his partner received a cash Grand Award and a Special Award. The Grand Award was 4th (in the world!) as an Environmental Engineering Project, and the Special Award was from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Linked here is a "tweet" from the EPA in regards to the award. They were able to network with USAID and are hopeful about a potential partnership in the future. This would enable them to get the device in the hands of those who need it.
Here is an article from Josephine Barber's hometown (Mason's project partner) https://www.mi-reporter.com/news/im-a-strong-believer-in-that-sustainability-is-very-important/