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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
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."