Two Nigerian students have the clinched third prize at the Stockholm Junior Water Prize Competition, which held last week in Sweden. They secured the top three finish at the international contest for their idea, a unique nature-based technique for water purification.
The students, Blessing Umoukpong and Edward Inisong, both from the Northern Annang Secondary Commercial School in Akwa Ibom State, impressed the competition’s judges with their solution, which involved removing impurities from water with the aid of coconut husks and costus plant fibre.
The win comes just a few months after the pair came tops at the national stage of the contest. In June, Blessing, aged 16, and Edward, 15, staved off keen competition from students representing schools across Nigeria. That victory meant that they were in line to represent Nigeria at the global finals in Stockholm, the Swedish capital.
Blessing and Edward’s water purification technique employed locally sourced plant fibre. Part of its appeal is that it can be devised fairly easily: fibre from coconut plant placed between leaf fibre and stem fibre from costus plants. But it’s grounded in real science. Water filtered through this material comes out colourless because the fibre absorbs metals from it.
Both students were presented with their prize by crown princess Victoria of Sweden, who is also the patron of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize.
Two students from Singapore, Caleb Liow Jia Le and Johnny Xiao Hung You, took the first prize for producing reduced Graphene Oxide, a material which can also be used to purify water.
Blessing and Edward say they hope their idea will be scaled up and serve as a low-cost solution for water treatment in local communities.
In the meantime, they have been awarded scholarships to university level by the Akwa Ibom State Government. The state announced this after their triumph at the national level a few months ago. They will also be joining an exclusive alumni network of the competition’s finalists. The network gives them access to expert advice and mentorship and could help them in pursuing their project further.
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize is organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). It is the most prestigious international student competition for water-related issues. The annual contest is instituted to get high school students interested in solving global water and environmental problems.