Greenwich High School student from CT lands national sustainability award
A Connecticut student recently received national recognition for her novel idea to remove carbon dioxide from ocean acidification hotspots and contain the oil that's left after oil spills.
Naomi Park, a 17-year-old junior at Greenwich High School, received the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual sustainability award after the EPA noticed her project at Regeneron, a major worldwide student science and engineering competition.
Park said current methods of removing oil after a spill often use chemicals and don’t capture contaminants below the surface. She wanted to create something to address that.
“When people think about oil spills, they think about surface level contamination,” Park said. “However, I feel like many people really don't realize the effects that this soluble oil can have.”
After cleanup efforts, Park said, soluble oil will spread throughout waters where a spill occurred.
Her next step may be pursuing a patent of the device. She will present her work in the coming weeks at the annual Stockholm Junior Water Prize, and attend MIT’s Research Science Institute this summer.
Andy Bramante, Park’s teacher and the science research director at Greenwich High School, said seeing young scientists develop their original ideas at this age is exciting.
“What's really cool about these kids is they don't have the same adulthood biases that we do. We think we know it all, and we think we can fix it,” Bramante said. “All they have is creativity and an open mind about the problem and the possible solutions.”
Students work on their projects in his class throughout the whole year, and must submit a proposal to enter the course. Currently there are 45 students in the research program.
Bramante said the number of his students exploring projects tied to the environment and climate change has increased over the years.
Park’s project was one of over 1,600 finalists that presented at Regeneron this year in Dallas, Texas. The EPA’s Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award allows the student to attend and participate in the agency’s National Sustainability Design Expo, held the next year.
“The creativity, innovation, intelligence, and drive that the students display is truly inspiring,” Chris Frey, with the EPA Office of Research and Development said in a statement. “I hope these students will keep using their STEM talents to tackle environmental issues and unlock scientific and engineering solutions that benefit all.”
For Park, exploring environmental sustainability solutions is motivated by seeing local impacts of the climate crisis.
“Seeing these changes in your community really makes you believe that the time for action is now,” she said. “And we can't really wait any longer.”