29 June 2012
A South African schoolgirl’s innovative device for eliminating bacteria on toothbrushes won her rave reviews, a first prize and R17 000 at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA in May.
Seventeen-year-old Ladysmith High School scholar Chene Mostert was one of five young South African prize winners at the prestigious Fair, which draws the most promising student entrepreneurs, innovators and scientists from around the world every year.
According to the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists website, finalists for the Fair are selected from hundreds of affiliated fairs, and their projects are evaluated onsite by more than 1 200 expert judges from every scientific discipline.
How clean is your toothbrush?
This week, Beeld newspaper reported that Mostert had won the American Dental Association’s first prize of R17 000, and an invitation to return to the US in December to patent her invention.
Mostert told Beeld that, while brushing her teeth one night, “I noticed the toilet next to the basin, and remembered reading that cold, wet places are ideal breeding places for bacteria.”
She then collected and tested 150 toothbrushes, and found more than 100 different types of bacteria growing on the bristles.
“I realised there was nothing on the local market for cleaning toothbrushes, so I designed a plastic box with a rotation system in which toothbrushes can be stored and cleaned,” Mostert told Beeld.
South Africa’s other winners this year, according to the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists website, were:
- Sasha Holloway, a 15-year-old student from Cape Town’s Springfield Convent School, who received a second place in the marine category and R12 000 in prize money for a project focusing on how the activity rhythms of small crustaceans are linked to tidal patterns and other environmental factors.
- Sixteen-year-old student Vivienne Dames from Victoria Girls’ High School in Grahamstown, who placed third in the environmental management category, winning R8 000 for a project that offers an environmentally friendly cleaning textile dye safe for agricultural irrigation.
- Eighteen-year old Hearn Johnson from Vereeniging in Gauteng province, who picked up a third place and R8 000 for a mechanical engineering project to manufacture functional prosthetic limbs more affordably.
- Sixteen-year old Brandon Ramnath from Christian brothers College in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, who received a third place and R4 000 from the American Psychological Association for an educational board game that helps high school students to study and achieve better marks.