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Surrey students in running for low-waste innovations in STEM competition

Blackberries, food waste being used to make paper
Two Surrey students have been chosen as semi-finalists for a youth innovation competition in STEM. (Unsplash photo)

A pair of Surrey students have been shortlisted for their “innovation” in creating new, environmentally conscious, versions of everyday products.

Two Grade 10 students from Surrey Academy of Innovative Learning have been chosen as semi-finalists for the Youth Innovation Showcase, held by the Science Fair Foundation BC.

Margo Senchenko, 15, and Nicholas Creanga, 14, are both in the Top 10 in the age 12-15 category and are progressing to the next round in the virtual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competition.

The two Surrey students each created paper, but in their own unique ways.

“How can I make a product that is still within a successful industry but isn’t as harmful as the products that there already are?” Margo pondered, leading her to the innovation of using waste to create paper.

Photo of Margo’s paper made out of food and paper waste. (Contributed photo - Margo Senchenko)

She started by creating two mixtures, one made of food waste and the other made of paper waste, which she then combined, pressed and dried to create paper that is low-waste. Every pound of waste, Margo turned into 10 sheets of paper.

What inspired Margo’s idea was seeing the people around her using an abundance of paper and wasting it, including herself at times.

“Seeing those problems right in front of you really did help motivate myself. What can I do to improve this or even stop this?”

The aim of her project is to reduce food waste and battle deforestation, she said.

Margo could not have completed the project without the support of her teachers, she added.

Nicholas’ project, called BB Paper uses blackberries in order to reduce the invasive species.

Photo of Nicholas’ paper made out of blackberries and recycled paper. (Contributed photo - Nicholas Creanga)

“My teacher said ‘how about you use something that harms other plants, like non-native plants?’” which sparked the idea of Himalayan blackberries.

“Blackberries are very fibrous so I thought they’d be a good way to make paper.”

The 14-year-old got to work by collecting blackberry stock and roots, cut them up and boiled them with baking soda to soften them. Nicholas pressed, dried and ironed the paper to get it to resemble the original product as best as possible.

The process was not easy, Nicholas said, adding that he had “many failed attempts” before becoming successful.

“I’m very passionate about the environment,” he said, adding that he would like to one day make a significant impact in the reduction of carbon emissions.

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Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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