Three 14-year-olds from Columbus, Ohio won this year's Scientific American Innovators award at the 2016 Google Science Fair in California on September 27, 2016
Crazy science experiments and LEGO trophies abounded at the awards ceremony for the sixth annual Google Science Fair, where 13- to 18-year-old scientists from all over the world were celebrated for their impressive accomplishments in science and engineering. Ashton, Julia and Luke, 14, from Columbus, Ohio, took home the Scientific American Innovator Award (which comes with $15,000 in funding, a year’s worth of mentoring and a cruise to a new continent) for their project, Fighting Foam Waste with Recycled Filters. The trio’s journey started with their realization that the U.S. produces an enormous amount of expanded polystyrene waste (like disposable foam cups) every year. Because polystyrene is difficult to recycle, much of it ends up as litter or in landfills, where it takes centuries to break down. These young scientists decided there must be a way to turn the foam, which is more than 90 percent carbon, into something useful: carbon filters for drinking water. It took a lot of time, effort and some failed experiments along the way, but they finally figured it out—the carbon filter they developed will help us recycle polystyrene waste and make drinking water cleaner! In fact, the team is already looking into commercializing their filter.