|SA student wins Intel science prize|
Thursday, 28 June 2012 12:10
A South African matric learner has a reason to smile broadly after her toothbrush cleaning invention won first prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the United States.
Chené Mostert, a 17-year old matric pupil at Ladysmith High School in KwaZulu-Natal, beat competitors from 68 countries to pocket the R17 000 prize money at the recently held fair in the American city of Pittsburgh. She also scored an invitation from the American Dental Association to return to the United States in December to patent her now award-winning toothbrush sterilising device.
The steriliser, which is made out of household items, uses hydrogen peroxide to kill bacteria. It consists of four plastic tubes in which the brushes are placed. When the user turns a handle, an internal rotating mechanism activates a scrubbing brush to clean and rinse the bristles of the toothbrush that has been placed inside it. Mostert spent about a year researching and designing the device before having a proper prototype built and entering it into the annual Eskom Expo for Young Scientists where the grand prize included competing at the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the U.S.
Mostert is quite a veteran of science fairs, having started entering when she was in Grade 3. “I take part in the Eskom Expo for young scientists every year, and earlier in 2012 I was looking for an idea for a project,” she says.
Her flash of inspiration for her device came while she was brushing her teeth. “While I was brushing my 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 took to the internet where she discovered “shocking information” about pathogenic bacteria on toothbrushes. She then collected 104 toothbrushes from urban and rural areas and sent them away to a commercial laboratory for analysis. Four disease-causing micro-organisms were found on every one of the toothbrushes she submitted, including the micro-organisms that cause gum disease, a herpes simplex virus and an influenza virus.
“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,” she says.
Continuing to keep people healthy is part of Mostert’s future dreams. She wants to become a paediatrician and hopes to enrol in medical school next year.
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