A system that controls the air quality inside aeroplanes, a cheap and simple HIV testing kit and an oil spill damage-control system system helped three teenagers win the top prizes at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) this weekend.

Seventeen-year-old Raymond Wang from Canada secured the  first prize, walking away with $75 000 (around R900 000).

Wang engineered an air system for plane cabins to improve the quality of the air that passengers inhale while they’re on a flight by more than 190%, helping minimises the chances of disease transmission by reducing pathogen inhalation concentrations by up to 55 times compared to conventional designs.

The system also reduces can be easily and economically incorporated in existing aeroplanes.

Fellow Canadian Nicole Ticea, 16 and Karan Jerath, 18, from Friendswood, Texas, were crowned the Gordon E Moore Award runners up and received the Intel Foundation Young Scientists Award along with a $50 000 (R600 000) prize each.

Ticea, a scientist who already has her own company dedicated to scientific research and development, created a cost-effective, disposable HIV testing kit that can be used in virtually any environment, doesn’t require the use of electricity and produces results in under an hour.

Jerath developed a containment closure that helps thwart the damage caused by spills in underwater oil wells. The closure separates natural gas, oil and ocean water, accommodates different water depths, pipe sizes and fluid compositions and can prevent the formation of potentially clogging methane hydrate.

A total of 1 700 young scientists from 422 national affiliate fairs worldwide were chosen to participate in the fair. Around 600 finalists received awards and prizes for their innovative research including 20 winners who were chosen in each category.  The category winners also received a $1 000 (R12 000) grant from the Intel Foundation for their school and to the affiliated fair they represented.

[Image – Intel ISEF]