The Inertia for Good Editor

The Inertia

Move over, Boyan Slat. There’s a sixth grader from Massachusetts getting an early jump — at least as far as young geniuses are concerned — on your plans to clean the ocean.

Boyan Slat was 16 when he started examining our planet’s battle with plastic pollution and its muddying of our oceans. Since then, he’s gone on to create and build The Ocean Cleanup as his plan to effectively clean a large portion of the plastics floating around the world’s largest bodies of saltwater. Meanwhile, at 12-years old, Anna Du has been busy developing an underwater ROV that uses infrared light to identify and sort those plastics.

“I have always loved marine animals and walking around the beach,” she says. “One day I just noticed that there are plastics everywhere around Boston Harbor, and so I tried to pick them up and clean it up. But there were just so many that I wanted to make something to help that problem.”

The infrared light helps distinguish microplastics from other, nonhazardous materials without having to send samples to a lab, making it an efficient machine once she tackles the task of getting it to clean the plastic it finds. Her idea is for a robot to have the ability to take on the cleaning task as well, but even without that capability, the project has already made her a top-ten finalist in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.


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