Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Science Fair Rock Star - Anela Arifi and Ilda Ismaili

This is the fifth in an ongoing series highlighting some of the amazing young women participating in this year's Google Science Fair. (Here are the first, second, third and fourth posts.) Each has survived the rigorous regional rounds, and are awaiting the results of the final testing to see who will win this year's prizes. The results will be announced on September 21, 2015, and you can be sure I'll be watching!

As always, I am impressed with all the participants and their projects, but the nature of this blog is to highlight the stories of kickass women and girls, so I'm focusing on them for this series. Over the next week I will be sharing stories of many of these remarkable young women. Stay tuned!

Anela Arifi and Ilda Ismaili are two bright minds working to make the world a better place. Both of these brilliant 11th grade students at the International High School of Tuzla, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, were inspired to follow a career in science after learning about Rosalind Franklin. The Google Science Fair is not their first event. Both have competed in chemistry and physics competitions in the past, which they credit for helping them hone the problem-solving skills they needed to tackle their latest research project.

These girls set out with the heady goal of finding an alternative energy source that would help achieve energy-efficiency, remain cost-effective, uphold standards of quality, and reduce pollution. Their source for this miracle biofuel? Chickens! Well, more precisely, their feathers.

The town where they live has a large poultry processing plant, so getting enough waste fathers to test their hypothesis was not a problem. The girls designed a two-reactor system (a pyrolysis reactor with an afterburner chamber) that would produce both by using the same process. They found that with minimal pre-processing the fat that occurs naturally in the feathers and is often a byproduct of chicken feather meal (a common livestock feed and fertilizer) is an excellent source of energy once it is removed, while the feathers themselves are remarkably good at storing hydrogen.

These brilliant young women are looking forward with the awareness that fossil fuels will be increasingly difficult and dangerous to come by and instead looked for ways to use existing waste to create a somewhat more sustainable source for fuel, as well as reducing pollution and providing local jobs.

When asked what she likes the most about studying science, Anela responded, "I just love the feeling of getting the right solution after thinking and rethinking." I couldn't agree more!

For more reading, please check out the Google for Education blog post about Anela Arifi and Ilda Ismaili.


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