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Strathmore student recognized at the 2020 British International Education Association University STEM Challenge


Maria Gitau, a third year Bachelor of Science in Informatics and Computer Science student, was recognized as the winner in the Social Impact category at the 2020 British International Education Association inaugural University STEM Challenge. Maria developed a business plan to improve plastic recycling in her local community through education and recycling stations.

With entries from over 34 countries, the competition unleashed the potential of students to use their innovative and entrepreneurial skills to create solutions for some of the most pressing global challenges.

The grand prize award went to a team of young biochemistry students from Brawijaya University Indonesia. The project looked at the microplastic problem in oceans around Indonesia; the team developed a prototype to filter microplastic from the seawater using the ferro-fluid concept.

Maria, co-founder of Jalia club that seeks to bridge the gap between students from less privileged schools, narrates the conception of her idea, and the importance of being cognizant of our waste footprint.

Origin of brainwave

“This project was born out of an idea I had one afternoon after watching a documentary about dumpsites. I always wondered what the idea behind throwing trash away and acting as though it has “been disposed of” was all about. This trash does not magically disappear. We throw our garbage into bins, and the trash ends up on our landfills and in our water bodies, with only a small percentage of it collected for recycling. We complain that we are turning arable land derelict, that we are polluting our water bodies, negatively affecting our flora and fauna, yet we continue to do the same thing every single day.

And so, I conceptualized an idea where people were more accountable for their plastic waste. In summary, my idea proposed a waste collection system hinged on the personal responsibility of consumers. This system allows for safe and efficient collection of waste, sorting of different categories of waste (paper, plastic, organic) and distribution to recyclers who utilize this waste as their raw material. An online system ensures access to information to consumers regarding their plastic footprint, plastic-free alternatives to consumption, information regarding plastic waste and its effects and a platform to track the overall impact the system is having.

Save our shores

Like many ideas I have had, I did not know where to start. And so, for my programming class, we were required to propose an idea that we would use for our semester project and I decided to test the viability of the idea in class, and the feedback from my lecturer was very encouraging. I then saw that the British International Education Association was running a competition, the theme was ‘Save Our Shores from Plastic Pollution’. Young innovators from around the world were encouraged to come up with sustainable solutions to help counter the plastic waste epidemic to both human and wildlife. And so, I tried my luck. I was honored to have the idea awarded for its potential Social Impact.

I am now in the process of working out the implementation stage of this idea. In the meantime, if you are reading this, be more mindful of your plastic waste footprint; it does not magically disappear.”