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Jordan Sand wins third annual Lemelson-MIT Invention Apprenticeship for innovative uses of local crops

CAMBRIDGE, MA, November 15, 2000 — The Lemelson-MIT Program announced today that Jordan Sand is the winner of its third annual high school invention apprenticeship award, a custom-tailored learning experience designed around the winning student's interests. Sand, an 18 year-old 12th grader from Ellendale Public School, in Ellendale, North Dakota, was selected for his dedication to preserving the environment through his inventions and his desire to help his community by finding new uses for local crops.

One of his early inventions is a solar distillation device to purify water outdoors during the cold North Dakota winters, which he built for a seventh grade project. Another invention is a solar-heated birdbath that keeps the birds' water thawed during icy winters. Both projects were selected to advance to the state science fair.

During the 1997-1998 school year, Jordan embarked on research to help American farmers create alternative uses for their crops. His studies proved that various types of grain straw (flax, wheat, corn) and cattails can be used to make paper. Using these raw materials, which are annual plants that need no re-seeding, herbicides or pesticides, to manufacture paper or other new products would provide additional income to farmers from crops that would not ordinarily be income-producing.

In order to further his research, Jordan contacted Ulrike Tschirner, Associate Professor of Wood and Paper Science at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, who offered Jordan the opportunity to spend several days at the University, a six-hour drive from his home. Jordan spent six days there, using chemicals that were unavailable at his school's laboratory to pulp, bleach and make paper from non-traditional raw materials such as corn stalks, cattails and cereal straws.

"The experience of working in a college laboratory was awesome," says Sand. "The equipment available was unlike anything I knew existed."

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Sand intends to pursue a career in plant science, concentrating on the genetic engineering of seeds. Highlighting his entrepreneurial spirit, Sand believes his papermaking concept is economically feasible on a global scale, with its only drawback being the distances associated with gathering and transporting raw materials to a processing plant.

The judges for the Lemelson-MIT Apprenticeship were won over by Jordan's enthusiasm, accomplishments and commitment to invention.

"Jordan impressed the judging panel with his creative approach," says Krisztina Holly, an inventor/entrepreneur and co-founder of Stylus Innovation, who chaired the judging panel. "He debunks the myth that invention is only done by engineers tinkering with mechanical devices. Instead, he shows us that innovation can be applied just as effectively to solve environmental and economic issues."

Administered by the Lemelson-MIT Program, the Invention Apprenticeship is an experiential award given to American high school student (9th-12th grades) for remarkable inventiveness. The Apprenticeship is designed to provide hands-on experience in a scientific and technological environment. Depending upon career interests, the winning student is paired with a leading scientist, technologist, engineer or entrepreneur—anywhere in the country— who serves as an"Invention Mentor." The student spends up to three weeks at the Invention Mentor's worksite in order to learn more about the process of inventing firsthand. The student can choose to work on a project of his or her own design or assist in one of the Mentor's projects.

Sand's Invention Mentor will be Dr. Ashok Gadgil, a senior scientist for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a premier, internationally respected laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy that is managed by the University of California. Dr. Gadgil conducts and leads theoretical and technology research on drinking water disinfection, indoor air pollutants and energy efficiency opportunities.

"I became involved with the Lemelson-MIT Invention Apprenticeship Program so that I can give an innovative student the opportunity to experience the excitement of inventing at a world class research lab," said Dr. Gadgil. "I have also enlisted the help of Professor Christine Rosen of The Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley campus to show Jordan how to turn inventing into a successful business."

Specially-tailored to Sand's interests and experience in agricultural and environmental improvement, the Invention Apprenticeship will give him the opportunity to work on an environmental project in Dr. Gadgil's Berkeley Laboratory.

"I am looking forward to working with Jordan," said Dr. Gadgil. "From what I already know about him, he is a creative young man with the persistence to see an idea through. That's very impressive."

Sand's advice to other budding inventors: "Just keep going, anything is possible!" He adds that aspiring teen inventors must look beyond their schools to such outlets as the Internet "to think and do things differently."

Sand is an avid sports fan who plays baseball and football, runs track and wrestles for his school. He also enjoys surfing the Internet and playing video games.

The winner of last year's Lemelson-MIT High School Invention Apprenticeship, Charles Johnson, a 12th grader from Hamilton, Texas, spent three weeks at the Intel Architecture Labs (IAL), the company's research center in Hillsboro, Oregon. Johnson worked with Dr. Carmen Egido and Eric Dishman to find new uses for computing in healthcare environments. He is currently studying biomedical science in the pre-medical program at Texas A&M University.

Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994 by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy. The Program celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards including the world's largest for invention, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program encourages young Americans to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship. The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, which supports other invention initiatives at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Hampshire College, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Read more about Jordan Sand.

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