Pinelands High matrics Matthew Redfern and Joseph Gibbon won gold medals at the International Festival of Engineering Science and Technology, (I-Fest²), held in Mahdia, Tunisia, last week.
Their project, “Comparing and evaluating different types of bioplastic polymers – an investigation into bioplastics”, was one of the top-10 entries, and they competed against pupils from around the world.
Matthew said he was inspired by the work done by British product designer Lucy Hughes, who won a James Dyson Award in 2019 for developing a bioplastic made from fish scales.
“We thought that this idea was very interesting, especially because South Africa produces many kilograms of fish scales every year as a bi-product of our large fishing industry.”
Bioplastics offered a promising solution to the problem of plastic waste, he said. “During research, we found that it would be possible for us to produce several different types of bioplastics, and we wondered which would be the most viable.”
Joseph said it had been a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to take part in the festival.
“It allowed us to learn a lot from the other participants’ projects and ideas. It also allowed us to meet amazing new people from all over the world.”
Joseph said the environment had fascinated him from a young age because he had spent a lot of time outdoors with his family. “I got to witness the natural beauty of our planet which showed me that protecting our environment is extremely important.”
In past years, the Earth had seen the destructive consequences of climate change, deforestation and plastic pollution, he said. “I have always been inspired by people who make meaningful contributions to solving these problems. I hope, one day, I will be able to make a positive difference like they have.”
The two young scientists impressed judges at the Eskom Expo International Science Fair last December, when they bagged a gold medal for their research, along with the top senior category award in the “chemistry and biochemistry” category (“Off to Tunisia tech fest,” Southern Suburbs Tatler, March 16)
Pinelands High principal Dave Campbell said the school was very proud of Matthew and Joseph.
“Despite their very busy lives, they have shown others what is possible through determination and hard work. We thank their teachers and others who have supported them so strongly through the past months.”