Teen who won Google science prize says project was inspired by home in west Cork

Fionn Ferreira (18) from Ballydehob in west Cork, was named the overall winner of the 2019 Google Science Fair.

Teen who won Google science prize says project was inspired by home in west Cork

The Irish student winner of a global science award has said he was inspired by his home in West Cork for his project which aims to remove microplastics from the world’s oceans.

Fionn Ferreira (18) from Ballydehob in west Cork, was named the overall winner of the 2019 Google Science Fair, an annual science competition open to students all around the world between the ages of 13 and 18.

One of 24 global finalists, chosen from a shortlist of 100 entries, he was awarded a $50,000 (€45,000) bursary, at an awards ceremony at the Google international headquarters in Mountain View, California on Monday.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Fionn was asked if he had been inspired by his home area.

“Of course, I'm in West Cork, right beside the seaside, I go kayaking, I go sailing, that of course had a huge impact on this project. Here, even at this science fair I was highlighting that West Cork was one of my true inspirations.”

He described winning the award as “so exciting and so inspiring that such an amazing panel of judges decided to choose me as the Google Science Fair winner 2018/19.”

Winning the award means recognition for him and his project, he said. “People obviously enjoy what I'm doing and people are getting excited about science just like me.

I think, for me anyway, I love inspiring other people to do science and I think this is recognition that I've inspired the judges about science too.

“Of course this award will also include travel elements, there are several other trips involved with this award and working closely with the partners of this competition, Scientific American, National Geographic, Virgin Galactic and of course Lego. All of those have perks built in to this award. It's an amazing honour to be selected for this.

“For me the greatest part of this award is actually just being a finalist and just that recognition.”

He explained that his project is a novel or new method to remove microplastics from water, “basically it uses magnetic liquid (ferro fluid) and this ferro fluid sticks to these plastic particles allowing them to be removed just using magnets so it's kind of cool to watch.

“Basically I've shown that this works on the 10 most commonly found type of microplastics and I've experimented with many more.

Now I'm just ready for it to be scaled up and used in wastewater treatment to remove microplastics, we all know this is a grave issue in Ireland and all over the world.

“It will definitely work, we're working on that currently together, all of these partners of this competition - that's their aim, they want to see this used. They think it will work, I think it will work."

Fionn will start his undergraduate studies in Groningen University in the Netherlands this autumn. He said he chose the Dutch university because of its reputation for scientific study and because he wants to go to Europe “and get outside my comfort zone.”

The university has educated many Nobel prize winners, asked if he could be a future Nobel prize winner, Fionn replied: “when I entered this competition I didn't think I'd win. If it happens, it happens. We'll see.”

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