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Paper (from alternative resources)

Sand Jordan Sand, a high school senior (class of 2001) at Ellendale High School in Ellendale, North Dakota, may very well be an environmental scientist in the making. At 18 years old, having created a number of devices related to the agricultural world, Sand is already proving that innovation can be applied not only by engineers on mechanical devices, but also to solve environmental and economic issues.

Sand's parents, and grandparents, are farmers, so he was well aware throughout his early life of the importance of plant health and technology to the family business. He began to combine this awareness with an aptitude for science in the seventh grade, when he built a solar distillation device designed to purify water outdoors during the cold North Dakota winters. Later Sand created a solar-heated birdbath that keeps the birds' water thawed in cold weather. Both projects were selected to advance to his state science fair.

As a high school sophomore, Sand began researching ways to help farmers create alternative uses for their crops. He found that various types of grain straw, such as flax, wheat and corn, and cattails, could be used to make paper. He concluded that using these materials — which are annual plants needing no re-seeding, herbicides or pesticides — to make paper or other products would provide additional income to farmers from crops that would not ordinarily be income-producing.

To further his research Sand contacted Ulrike Tschirner, Associate Professor of Wood and Paper Science at the University of Minnesota, who offered to help Sand by allowing him to work for six days in his laboratory. There Sand experimented with chemicals to pulp, bleach and make paper from corn stalks, cattails and cereal straws.

Soon after, Sand was selected to attend the International Science and Engineering Fair in Philadelphia.

As winner of the 2001 Lemelson-MIT Invention Apprenticeship for high schoolers, Sand will work for a short period this coming year with Ashok Gadgil, a senior scientist for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. Dept. of Energy laboratory managed by the University of California. Dr. Gadgil, who conducts research on drinking water disinfection, indoor air pollutants and energy efficiency opportunities, will serve as Sand's "Invention Mentor" on an environmental project that the two will design together in the weeks and months to come.

Sand plans to attend college next fall and to pursue a career in plant science with a focus on the genetic engineering of seeds. At the moment, Sand is considering the possibility of attending North Dakota State University, or perhaps MIT.

"I am looking forward to seeing what I really enjoy and pursuing a field in that area," he said. "I would really like to think of myself as a person who makes a difference." So far, it looks like Sand is on his way to doing just that. He says he believes his papermaking concept is economically feasible on a global scale, and intends to develop the idea further in the future. Sand is also especially interested in helping to improve the general public's perception of genetically engineered crops and foods. Said Sand, "I would just like to see what really needs to be done and try and figure out how to make it better."

[Dec. 2000]


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