KZN learner bags international runner-up Science and Engineering award in Dubai

The fight against plastic pollution has never been more critical, with our oceans expected to carry more plastic than fish by 2050. Dia Singh, a Grade 11 learner at Curro’s St Dominics Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal, is doing her bit to change this, and in doing so is firmly planting South Africa on the world’s environmental map.

The 16-year-old’s Plastic Incinerated by Plastic (PIP) system won the first runner-up spot at the HP Steam International Expo held in Dubai last month. The PIP system aims to extinguish the world’s plastic by simply burning it. The flammable plastic fuel produced by the burning can be re-injected back into the system to help destroy even more plastic in a closed, and safe environment.

As part of her submission, Dia performed numerous scientific experiments and drafted several engineering designs as well as single-handily developed an app that can help locate and analyse plastic data to be burned by her system.

The inspiration for the PIP system came after Dia watched a horrifying documentary that showed a sea turtle unable to breathe because a plastic straw was stuck in its nostril. Now armed with her certificate and international recognition, Dia is keen to see how she can refine her system to leverage maximum environmental benefit. The Newcastle-based learner has already been approached by several international companies and investors, who have provided invaluable feedback and are willing to work with her to bring the innovative system to market.

Commenting on her phenomenal achievements at the HP Steam International Innovation Expo, Dia says, “I was so excited when St Dominic’s suggested I enter my project for this prestigious science and engineering awards, but I didn’t think I would ever win the first runner-up spot.  When the Dubai organisers contacted me to tell me I had won, I couldn’t believe it.” She goes on to explain that the creation of her PIP system was a no-brainer. “Coming from South Africa and growing up surrounded by the Indian and Atlantic Ocean has made me incredibly passionate about cleaning up our oceans and seas. I just knew that I had to create an idea that championed a positive environmental impact and because I love Science and Engineering, it made perfect sense to use my subject knowledge to help generate something that will benefit future generations,” she notes.

Chad Moses, Executive Head of Curro St Dominic’s Newcastle, praised Dia for her phenomenal achievement. “Dia’s incredible success in Dubai shows how the combination of passion and academic excellence can lead to amazing inventions. By coming in as first runner-up at the HP Steam International, Awards, Dia has not only inspired a future generation of female engineers and scientists, but she has also recognised South Africa as an international contender when it comes to prevailing issues such as environmental sciences. As a school, we cannot wait to see where Dia’s pioneering system will take her,” he concludes.