Editor's note: We're celebrating this year's impressive 20 Google Science Fair finalist projects over 20 days in our Spotlight on a Young Scientist series. Learn more about each of these inspiring young people and hear what inspires them in their own words.





Names: Anela Arifi, Ilda Ismaili
Home: Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Age category: 16-18
Project: A system for alternative fuel production and storage using chicken feathers and fat





Anela and Ilda have been interested in science their entire lives. A science lesson about Rosalind Franklin inspired them to apply their passion to address a big challenge facing their country. They questioned how they could use waste material for alternative fuel production and storage to address the rapid rate of urbanization and increased demand for fuel in their country. Using local laboratory furnaces, the two tested the large amount of poultry waste in in their town and found that the chicken feathers could store hydrogen, while the fat produced fuel. Anela and Ilda’s ingenious system could restore the environment, while providing jobs to rural community members.


What was the inspiration behind your project?
Anela: Today, people have huge problems maintaining enough energy for their normal needs. I saw a need to invent new fuels and find acceptable storage for those fuels. What most inspires me is solving problems that we face. Just knowing that a formula, design or experiment that we come up with can solve big problems amazes. But everything has to be well organized. So, the first thing I did was set four aims: 1. achieve energy-efficiency 2. aim for the cost-effectiveness 3. make a good quality product 4. don’t pollute the environment with it. We wanted to find one material from which both a fuel and a material for storing fuel could be made. Using Google search, we discovered that both of the products can be produced by using chicken feathers. After looking into the statistics of chicken-feather waste in our country and in the world, we came to the conclusion that using chicken feathers would be a great environmentally-friendly solution. We tested the feathers in the laboratory and read many science articles and discovered that biodiesel (fuel) and material for storing hydrogen (storing fuel) could be produced by using chicken feathers. And since I’m a great fan of designing devices and inventing, Ilda and I designed a two-reactor system that would produce both by using the same process energy. We solved a problem by thinking of changing the world, maintaining a commodity in our everyday lives, reusing materials, inventing and experimenting.

Ilda: As Niel Armstrong said: "This is a small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind." That was my inspiration to do this. To be a part of that small step for man, and hope that someday it'll become a part of amazing discoveries and projects that helped to change the world. That way of thinking made me do this. Why this topic? We rely on fossil fuels, but we’re not aware that they’re slowly disappearing. I know that many researchers claim that we’ll run out of fossil fuels in 40 years or so, but I don't think that's true. They will be around longer than that, but what we’re not aware of is that we’re killing our own planet by using them. So Anela and I decided to focus on alternative fuels that could help solve problems of today like, pollution and economy struggles. And of course, one day, let's say 200 years from now when we run out of fossil fuels, we hope that our project and our idea could be one of many good things that will help save our planet earth. And THAT is a giant leap for mankind.

When and why did you become interested in science?
Anela: I remember being a small girl (my mother says I was four) and asking my mom; "Why is the sky blue?" My mom answered my question the best she could, but I kept asking “why?” I wondered whether there’s more to it than I could see and understand. My wondering and thinking about the complexity of everything came in handy when I started competing in national math, physics and chemistry competitions. I just loved the feeling of getting the right solution after thinking and rethinking. So, I could say that I was interested in science throughout my entire life actually. In high school I started applying my knowledge towards solving the problems on paper and in practice too, so I managed to make some successful science projects also. So when it comes down to it, I can say that my interest in science began when I was four years old holding my mother’s hand, wondering.

Ilda: I've been interested in science as long as I can remember. Even as a little girl, I was fascinated by plant growing, wondering how cars work, finding out why and how we laugh and sleep. I didn't realize back then that all of that was tied to science. While attending elementary school, I competed in many science competitions, such as science fairs and physics, chemistry and biology competitions. My favourite subject is biology, and you’ll see that biology plays a big part in our project. When I got to high school, I was introduced to more serious science competitions, that made me incorporate my own ideas. I could come up with an idea and present it to the rest of the world. It was then that I realized how beautiful science is. It has no rules or restrictions or boundaries. It's the same in every country. That's why I started to be interested in science. And I love it.

What words of advice would you share with other young scientists?
Anela: Never stop wondering. Think and rethink until you understand. And even if you have troubles with your research, wondering, thinking and rethinking will make it work.

Ilda: The best advice I ever got is that knowledge is power and to keep reading and learning. That's what I'll tell my fellow scientists. An idea you have may not work the first time, or the third or even the hundredth time, but it will eventually. Mine did. So keep on trying.