A North Forsyth High School student is heading to a national competition after Georgia Tech recognized his plan to deal with oil spills.
Evan Smith, a junior, recently won first place in the high school division of Georgia Tech’s Inventure Challenge, a competition focused on innovation, design and engineering. More than 80 teams at various levels competed in the state competition.
“My entry was a salt fiber oil filtration system,’’ Smith said. “It was just a really basic filter that I implemented the salt fibers, which is actually a construction mineral material; it’s a similar process to carbon fiber processing.
“I found if you introduce it to an oil and water mixture, it can remove the oil from it and the water can strain through.”
Smith said he was able to discuss his ideas and plans with others, but was not expecting to win.
“It was a great feeling. It was a surprise honestly, I didn’t think I was going to win anything,” he said. “I’d been working on this project for a year and a half, now … There was a lot of tough competition there, and I was there to get feedback on my project.”
He was successful in getting input and said he spoke with the head of the school’s engineering program, among others.
“I had two people come up to me who worked directly on the BP oil spill, so that was pretty fun for me,” he said, “but they were generally impressed by it. Because my idea was so simple, but effective, they said they really liked it.”
Smith said he enjoyed being able to talk about the prototype and hear attendees give their ideas.
“My major selling point was I wanted this to be a public option for everyone to give their ideas, give their input and some people really appreciated that,” Smith said. “There were spit-balling me ideas right there on the spot.
“It was really heartwarming, because … that’s what the idea was; it’s a community project and I intend to help the environment not make money off it.”
Next, he will head to the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo in Alexandria, Virginia, on June 1-3.
Smith has worked on the project as part of an independent research class at North that gave him time to research and prototype the idea and will be the first from the school to attend the competition.
It doesn’t appear there will be a repeat performance, as Smith said he is graduating a year early. After graduation, he plans to go to Europe and join the Peace Corps after that.
Smith said his love of the outdoors influenced his entry to the competition and future plans.
“I’ve been involved in Boy Scouts since I was in fifth grade,” he said. “It introduced me to the great outdoors; I love hiking and I love camping. It honestly hurts to see oil in the water and I see all the animals being hurt and the people being affected by it as well.
“I really love people, and I really want to help as much as I can. I just feel like it’s a waste of a life to do it for yourself and not help those around you.”