Sripada Srisai Lalita Prasida, a 13-year-old student from Odisha, has made India proud by winning the ‘Community Impact Award’ at the fifth installment of the prestigious Google Science Fair in California on Tuesday. She has won the award in the 13-15 years age category for developing a water purifier that works using waste corn cobs.

In one of the encounters with a tribal farmer, this 9th standard student of Delhi Public School, Damanjodi, came to know about the low utilization of corn cobs, which ignited her to find out some ways to use this agricultural waste.

Corn is India’s third most important cereal crop after wheat and rice. However, corn cobs are one of the most plentiful and important agricultural wastes in maize cultivation. Immature corn cobs are boiled and eaten by the local farmers. But mature cobs are either used as fuel, resulting in air pollution and global warming. Interestingly, corn cobs are not even eaten by animals as they choke their digestive tract, and may lead to death. Thereby, heaps of corncobs are found dumped in areas where they are cultivated.

Having high mechanical strength, rigidity and porosity, corn cob is a suitable absorbent. This enables contaminants like oxides of salts, detergent, suspended particles, coloured dyes, oil and grease to be absorbed in the surface of the corn cobs. Some of the heavy metals are also absorbed.


“If the drain pipe of the household is connected to a chamber having different layers of corn cobs in partition layers or to an S-trap pipe having corn cobs, it will separate about more than 70-80 % of contaminants including suspended particles from the waste water,” says the report published about her project on the website.

As part of this award, Lalita received 10,000 US dollars as prize money. Lalita will be further supported for one year by the organisation to build on her project. Trinath Prasad Padhi, headmaster of DPS Damanjodi, said the water purifier developed by Lalita if produced in large scale would be a great help for the poor living in rural areas of south Odisha, who still do not have any access to pure water.

View the other winners at the below award celebration video of Google Science Fair 2015