Hawaii students compete for National Geographic Expedition grant

Hawaii students competing for National Geographic Expedition grant

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three Hawaii college students are up for a $50,000 dollar National Geographic Expedition grant.

They're finalists for two ambitious competing projects involving surf breaks and human waste.

"Poop out of Poverty" starts with this startling statistic, "2.4 billion people lack access to proper sanitation."

HPU students Emily MacNintch and Nick Holvik propose using the grant money to address the lack of toilets and spread of disease in Africa and India.

India's filthy outhouses were the butt of jokes in the movie "Slumdog Millionaire."

In real life, it's no laughing matter.

"A major disease it spreads is diarrhea" explains the video. "It kills 5 thousand children daily, making it the 2nd leading killer of children worldwide."

Emily discovered composting toilets while studying at a sustainable living community in Costa Rica, saying "They very successfully use this toilet technology there and it doesn't use any water and the compost allowed us to grow the vegetables that we ate everyday."

She went on to explain the benefits, saying "The methane releases, cures it of its pathogens and once the compost is made you can pipe the methane out and use it for the energy."

According to her partner Nick Holvic, "We've seen these toilets being built for as cheap as 80 US dollars. They can create a business out of sanitation. It provides economic incentive."

Right now, another Hawaii finalist's passion project leads the competition.

It's called "Through the Surface."

Surfer scientists Clifford Kapono and Clint Edwards want to study what's happening under the world's most famous surf breaks.

Kapono explained his role this way, saying "I look at the molecules found on the surface of the reef to interpret the corals' health. The National Geographic Expedition Grant would allow us to analyze these reef states."

He told us by phone from California, where he's working on earning his PhD in Chemistry at the University of California San Diego, "We're just giving a physical of the reef to begin to understand if reef is in a healthy state or sick state."

Voting ends September 29th. You can vote once daily at expeditiongranted.nationalgeographic.com

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