Last month, three Chinese High School students from Shanghai, Yi Xiao, 16, Hao Wang, 17, and Jie Weng, 17, won a $5,000 scholarship and a crystal sculpture based on a wastewater treatment scheme of the Caoxi River located in Shanghai as part of the International Stockholm Junior Water Prize which is held during World Water Week, in Stockholm, Sweden.
From left: Tom Martin, ITT Corp. sr. Vice President, Corporate Relations; Xiao Yi; Weng Jie; HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden; Wang Hao
(Photo: Stockholm Water Institute)
Xiao, Wang, and Weng's in-depth research and experimentation led to the creation of three inventions, a remote-controlled movable multifunctional floating pump, a novel artificial filtration bed, and a controllable ecological floating bed which, due to their help in raising the water quality of the Caoxi River, all earned patents in 2006.
"We applied for patents, not for money or commercial use, but for approval and appreciation of our ideas," said the students, who, due to the difference in time zones and language barriers were interviewed via email. "We hope that these inventions will be used by others."
For the last twelve years, Stockholm has been hosting the International Stockholm Junior Water Prize in which High School students from around the world are brought to Stockholm to try and win the international prize after having received the national award in their country.
Xiao, Wang, and Weng, students at Shanghai Nanyang Model High School, received the prize from HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden for their wining project titled, "Application Research and Practice of Comprehensive Technology for Restoring Urban River Channels Ecologically." This is the first time that China, who was co-sponsored by China's State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and ITT, "a global leader in the transport, treatment, and control of water, wastewater, and other fluids", won the international award since they first entered the contest four years ago. Sri Lanka and Japan were honored as finalists.
Xiao, Wang, and Weng first began their research on wastewater treatment in 2004 on some of the severely polluted river channels that run through Shanghai. Their study is based on the concept of "urban pre-tank engineering technology" which consists of four methods.
In the first, the microorganism method, is the students dammed small sections of the Caoxi River and removed the contaminated mud. The second, known as the aeration method, allowed for the river's most oxygen-deprived areas to rejuvenate themselves. The filtration bed method allowed for plants and bushes native to the Caoxi River's bank to be fertilized and then used to block off any polluted runoff from the land. The ecological reflux method was the last scheme included in the students' study. It involved intense monitoring of the water and elimination of pollutants.
Xiao, Wang, and Wend made clear that their approach to treating the Caoxi River was not based on the work of others. Rather, the three students first investigated several sample rivers in Shanghai that were previously treated by other organizations. But, what they found was that those approaches were too costly and too complicated for them to take. As a result, the students opted for an economically practical one that was adjusted to fit the conditions of the Caoxi River.
"We found out and solved the problems that we met which required much innovativeness and then made our own inventions," said the students.
Altogether, the cost of Xiao, Wang, and Weng's research and experiments was estimated to around 40,000 to 50,000 Renminb (RMB) or about $5,000 to $6,000.
"There is still something that could not be measured by figures, the time and enthusiasm we put in," added the students.
Xiao, Wang, and Weng plan to continue monitoring the water quality of the Caoxi River as well as extending the application of their technology which they believe will be implemented. They have already begun to apply their methods to two other rivers in Shanghai, Caoxi River Branch and the Shijazhai River.
Even with accomplishing all that they have at such a young age, nothing means more to them than how their hard work has lead to the people in Shanghai to pay more attention to environmental issues and innovative education.