2001 Lemelson-MIT High School Invention Apprentice
|Photo by Will Kincaid
Referred to as a "teenaged Rumplestiltskin," Jordan
Sand may not weave straw into gold, but this Ellendale, ND student
has invented something that has equal potential for the farming
community. Sand, winner of the 2001 Lemelson-MIT High School Invention
Apprenticeship, has found a way to turn non-income producing raw
materials into a valuable resource: paper.
One of Sand's first inventions is a solar distillation device to
purify outdoor water.
After reading about a company that made cardboard out of barley
in Prarie Grains Magazine, Sand invented a process using
local crops—grain straws such as wheat, corn, flax and cattails—to
make paper. Using these raw materials, which are annual plants that
need no re-seeding, herbicides or pesticides, would provide additional
income to farmers from crops that would not ordinarily be income-producing.
Since his town lacked necessary resources, Sand contacted a wood
and paper sciences professor at the University of Minnesota, St.
Paul to test his theory. He drove six hours to the university, and
spent several days in the laboratory pulping, bleaching and, finally,
producing paper from grain straw. Although wood paper is more durable,
Sand's paper, which resembles flat coffee filters, is ideal
for short-term use, such as magazines or newspapers.
"I'm not a huge environmentalist, but if this is a
huge renewable resource that we aren't using to its fullest
extent, I figured there is something worth looking at here,"
The program's judges praised Sand for his ability to create
an innovative solution that has both environmental and economic
benefits to the community. To foster Sand's interest in environmental-friendly
inventions, he was paired with Dr. Ashok Gadgil as his "Invention
Mentor." Dr. Gadgil conducts research on drinking water disinfection,
indoor air pollutants and energy efficiency at the Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory at the University of California.
During his three-week stay at the lab, Sand gained hands-on experience
working on a variety of projects, such as the study of room gasses
in industrial spaces. Using lasers to detect toxins and airflow,
he helped create mathematical models and provide analysis. Regarding
his apprenticeship Sand says, "It gave me confidence and a
new avenue for opportunity."