Deakin University, Australia, in partnership with the Royal Institute of Colombo, successfully concludes the Young Environmentalists’ Challenge 2022

A talented team, “Fission Impossible”, from Bishop’s College, Colombo, have emerged triumphant in an international environmental competition for high school students- Deakin University’s Young Environmentalists’ Challenge (YEC).

The formidable team, consisting of A-Levels students Mehara Jayasinghe, Visha Peiris, Aniqah Irshad Cassim and Amashki Samarasinghe, mentored by their teacher-in-charge, Mrs. Anushka Kavirathne, developed their winning environmental solution, a portable and cost-effective water filter.

The filter sets itself apart from other commercially available filters in Sri Lanka, by specifically removing agrochemicals and other nitrates.

The Bishop’s College team competed with eight other finalist school teams from Vietnam, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka, the finalist teams all emerging from challenging initial rounds of the competition, spanning near six months.

All the finalist teams impressed the Deakin and RIC academic judging panel with their innovations, including their thorough background research, engineering design, meticulous data collection, the teams’ outstanding presentation skills, as well as their high-level scientific understanding of the issues at hand.

The YEC, an initiative of Deakin University Australia’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment (SEBE), has successfully concluded its third year this 2022. The YEC is conducted in Sri Lanka, in partnership with the Royal Institute of Colombo (RIC).

RIC is Deakin’s only licensed partner in Sri Lanka for Environmental Engineering, as well as Environmental Science degree pathways to Deakin in Australia- both these fields being promising careers of the future, seeing steady, significant growth, globally.

The YEC aims to inculcate a passion for the environment and sustainability in high-school students, by offering an opportunity for students to become change agents for their local communities, and consequently, for their country.

As such, the YEC provides a platform for Sri Lankan high school students to display their creativity and innovation by designing and building their original solutions to combat Sri Lanka’s growing environmental challenges.

The climate change crisis has been highlighted in recent times by world leaders and young students alike, all with the commitment to make positive change for the betterment of the planet. In 2018, Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, then aged only 8 years, heralded in a new movement for school children to be advocates of their environment; Greta initiated the movement, “Fridays for Future” (also called “School Strike for Climate”). Driven by her love of nature, Greta inspired hundreds of thousands of students from all around the world to participate in their own “Fridays for Future”, in countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands.

In 2020, in the grip of the global pandemic, revered natural historian, Sir David Attenborough, warned world leaders over an impending environmental crisis. To inspire and incentivise, Sir Attenborough and Prince William of Great Britain have together launched the “Earthshot Prize”, the inaugural event being held in 2021. The Earthshot Prize will award GBP £50 million over a period of ten years to 50 solutions to the world’s most serious environmental problems. This, being the most significant environmental prize to date, certainly could be viewed akin to a “Nobel Prize for environmentalism”.

What is becoming more and more evident, is that no matter which side of the climate change debate the adults are on- whether champions of the environment like Sir Attenborough, or conveniently ignorant of the growing issues, it is up to young people, the future “Gretas of this generation”, to emerge as crusaders of the future. With what is now known as “the Greta Effect”, it is in this apt setting that school children in Sri Lanka too, now can inspire and impact their peers and wider society to becoming advocates and change-makers of their futures.

YEC 2022 saw participation from school teams all over Sri Lanka, despite very challenging times for the nation. Deakin University is deeply grateful to the participating schools, the Principals, students and their teacher mentors, for their tremendous effort and contribution, enabling the YEC to reach new heights, year upon year.

Students interested in participating in the next Young Environmentalists’ Challenge 2023, may reach out to Deakin University’s Sri Lanka country office: srilanka@deakin.edu.au, for more information.