Mumbai’s Generation Y seems to be taking the first step towards understanding our planet. Teams from four Mumbai schools, out of 28 state finalists, have been selected for their simple yet innovative projects for the finals of the 17th National Children’s Science Congress (NCSC). This year’s theme was ‘Planet Earth — Explore, Share and Care’. The NCSC is conducted by the Department of Science and Technology and supported by the Centre.
“The finalists’ projects were selected for their originality of findings, appropriate research methodology and utility potential,” said BB Jadhav, Mumbai District coordinator, NCSC.
School: Adarsha Vidyalaya, Chembur
Project: ‘Embrace turmeric, evade houseflies’
About the project: For a month five Class 9 students were the butt of classroom jokes because catching flies was the crux of their project. The team — Atul Balakrishnan, Rohit Phale, Vishnu Subhash, Abhijith Nair and Vivek Pagare — wanted to test the effect of turmeric on houseflies. Students observed two halves of a fish, one marinated in turmeric, one not. The former barely attracted any flies.
Subsequently, over a month they tested different suspension values (amount of turmeric in water) to repel flies using a dual salts olfactoemeter, an apparatus that would determine the reaction of flies to different turmeric concentrations. Flies were consistently repelled by the turmeric solution because of the smell and 30 per cent was the ideal concentration for repelling flies.
“Houseflies spread diseases, particularly through food. This is a great way of repelling them, without inserting chemicals in the food,” said Balakrishnan, an aspiring computer engineer.
School: Modern English School, Chembur
Project: ‘A quantitative assessment of phytoremediation of heavy metals using duckweed’
About the project: Five Class 9 students decided to put to use the duckweed plant growing in ponds around their homes and school to test its impact on contaminated water.
Parimalasree C, Gayatri Menon, Nivedha B, Shailaja S and Siddesh S applied a process known as phytoremediation. The water samples were contaminated with concentrations of three metals — copper, lead and zinc.
Over three months they observed that duckweed absorbed the metals thereby significantly lowering contamination levels.
“Polluted water released from industries affects aquatic life and could enter our bodies through the food chain,” said Parimalasree.
“This is a way of making the water safe.”
The same project has also been selected for the Indian Science Congress to be held in Kerala next year.
School: Sharon English High School, Mulund
Project: ‘Spinach grown in banana peel compost’
About the project: Every day five class eight students religiously ate two bananas each. They were not on a special diet but a scientific mission — part of which involved generating banana peels.
The project by Mansi Katira, Arpit Dedhia, Raj Vador, Mihir Manek and Eishita Rambhia, was based on an idea suggested by their science teacher. The students grew spinach in two separate soil samples — ordinary soil and soil with compost made from banana peels — over five weeks. Laboratory analysis revealed that the spinach from the soil with the compost had double the amount of Vitamin A and iron.
Soil analysis also showed that the compost had higher potassium content.
“We wanted to prove that even waste matter can be reused to grow something,” said Katira, the group leader. “Handling the slippery peels was initially unpleasant. Then it became a habit,” said Vador.
School: Social Service League High School, Parel
Project: ‘Best ways of conserving plants without wasting water’
About the project: Five students (Classes 9 and 10) of the Marathi medium school looked at how to ensure the growth of plants while conserving water. The answer, they discovered, lay in how much and when plants are watered. Rutuja Savaratkar, Mitali Verlekar, Pooja Salvi, Vineeta Shinde and Srikant Bhavani-petwar each planted six methi saplings in different beakers. The three beakers, labelled as the control group, were watered the same amount but at different times of the day.
The three other beakers, the experimental group, were watered at different times with varying amounts based on how dry the soil was. After 33 days, students found that of the control group plants, the beaker watered in the evening registered better growth because less water evaporated in the evening. The experimental group plants watered in the afternoon and evening based on their needs also showed good growth.