Elementary school students build machine to pull tiny pieces of plastic from sand

Updated: Sep. 3, 2019 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - For a school project at Hahaione Elementary, students Sophia and Lucas Magel built a machine that extracts tiny plastic pieces from beach sand.

The siblings built their battery-powered Microplastic Collector out of a wheelbarrow, filters and hoses. In field tests at beaches in Waimanalo and Kailua, their machine performed flawlessly.

"It worked very well. We collected a lot of microplastic," Sophia said.

The kids were inspired by Kailua resident Ray Aivazian’s homemade microplastic separator, which he constructed and then demonstrated on YouTube, so they built their own.

"We went on his website and looked at some videos to see if could try to make it like his," Lucas said.

Other than some guidance from Hahaione STEM teacher Scott Kunihiro the pair did the work on their own.

"They were really quick to figure out what were the shortcomings, what we could do better, what we could change," he said.

They also did their own fundraising, convincing Hahaione’s PTSA to back their project with about $400.

“There are no words to describe seeing them take the initiative, to not only do the project but to see it through,” said their mother, Diana Dayrit.

The Magels ended up building four microplastics collectors. The school donated one to Kaiser High School so older kids could experiment with it.

Sophia said the experience changed her family’s outlook on plastic pollution.

"Since I saw how much plastic we collected, I'm more aware of how much plastic I use, like when I go to the grocery store or at school," she said.

The kids also started a club called the Green and Blue Crew to tackle bigger beach cleanups.

"If we do this more and clean the beaches then we could make a difference in the world," Lucas said.

If you want to see their machines in action, on Sept. 15 the Green and Blue Crew will hold a clean-up at Waimanalo Beach.

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