While other 16-year-olds are spending their time glued to their phone or tablet screens or at their local mall, Kiara Nirghin, a Grade 11 pupil at St Martin’s High School, spends most of her free time at home with her family – probably working on her next project.
It’s no wonder she recently received the coveted Google Science Fair Grand Prize with her project, which fights drought with fruit.
Earlier this year (YOU, 1 September), YOU caught up with the teen at her home in Meyersdal, Alberton, where she lives with her parents and siblings.
At that stage Kiara had already been announced as the winner of the Community Impact Award in the Africa and Middle East region. In August she’d made it to the Global final 16 – and now she's been named as the overall winner.
“I really couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think that something like this could happen from just an idea that I came up with,” she told YOU earlier.
Her winning idea – a solution to keeping crops hydrated for longer at a lower cost – stemmed from the drought currently experienced across the Southern African region. She says she's naturally inquisitive and this was a challenge she wanted to tackle.
PHOTO: Fani Mahuntsi
“I've always had a great love for chemistry since I was young. I vividly remember at the age of seven experimenting with vinegar and baking soda solutions in plastic cups,” the introduction to her online submission to the Google Science Fair reads.
“My natural curiosity and questioning nature has sparked my everlasting love of science.
“I also house a great interest in food science and baking. I believe that food and chemistry are undoubtedly linked in the intertwined science web. I love molecular gastronomy and the application of scientific principles in food creation,” she says.
PHOTO: Fani Mahuntsi
So the natural chemistry between the science whizz kid, her passion and her most recent achievement comes as no real surprise.
Kiara is the youngest of four children to her parents. Her mom, Rekha (46), is a housewife and her dad, Bob (47), is a businessman. Kiara credits her family for giving her the opportunity to bounce ideas off them and for their continuing support.
As the grand prize winner Kiara walks away with $50 000 (nearly R700 000) in scholarship funding.