Minnesota high schoolers win international contest — with a plan to recycle diapers

A team of high schoolers from Proctor, Minn., won a first prize over the weekend in the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Their project: recycling disposable diapers.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, the students — Johnny Gales, Zach Coughlin, Daniel Roach, Alyssa Hagemeyer, Ben Nicolson and their adviser, Allison Nicolson — won first place in the Environment and Energy category with their six-minute presentation that included a live stand-up pitch and a video.

The paper says their idea is “a potential process to get diapers from consumers’ homes to the garbage truck tipping floor and then into a system to disinfect and deconstruct diapers into their basic elements; plastic, wood pulp and sodium polyacrylate, the basis of the super-absorbent beads.”

They earned a $5,000 scholarship to help implement their idea, and will work with the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, on creating a workable model.

Nicolson, the adviser, praised the students’ presentation, saying: “They honestly sold the idea because they believed in it.”

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