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Finance & Innovation

This 14 year old’s water purification idea is taking her to the international science fair

Louise Barker

Rachel Brouwer is no ordinary girl. She is heading to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair all because of her ninth grade water purification project.

Devising a water purification system made from every-day items, Rachel was determined to make a difference. After winning a gold medal at the national science fair, she was invited to join the Canadian team at the international fair and will have her system tested in Pakistan.

Innovative ideas are the building blocks to global change and ending extreme poverty. The world needs critical thinkers willing to challenge norms and solve the planet’s biggest problems.

Rachel is more than just an innovative creator, she is a leader looking to make change for the better by using every-day items.   

Rachel and her project in 2014 at the Halifax Expo. 

The purification system uses a charcoal and cotton filter to remove contaminants. The filtered water is then put into two-liter bottles and set onto a hot tin roof to be warmed by the sun. The sun’s UV radiation kills the bacteria. To clarify when the water is safe to drink, Rachel designed an indicator strip using soy bean wax that changes color as the water gets safer.

Her project will be presented in May of this year along with 1,700 other students’ projects from more than 75 different countries, regions, and territories. The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is the world's largest international pre-college competition. Itshines a light on young students and their independent research.

Rachel, and her 8-person Canadian team, will be competing against other students for more than $4 million USD in prizes.

Outside of the science community, Rachel’s device has stirred up conversation all the way in Pakistan. The founder of Swat Relief Initiative, Zebu Jilani, wants to test the purification system in Pakistan in a couple of weeks.

Rachel was inspired by Malala Yousafzai to create a water purification system that would help people who have limited access to clean water.

"When I was in Grade 7, I went hiking in New Hampshire and my brother and I saw the lakes and the rivers and then we saw the 'Contaminated. Do Not Drink,' signs," Rachel said, "At the same time I was reading the I am Malala book. In this book, many women and children were dying from the cholera outbreak, so I kind of put the two ideas together and I wanted to make a difference."

Rachel has accomplished a lot and is determined to keep going. She hopes to continue her research and test filters with the goal that her purification system can be adapted to filter out heavy metals such as lead. 

Her achievement and goals are impressive for anyone, and even more so for this 14-year old inventor!