A group of teenage inventors from Johor have won the gold medal in an international science competition, with their creation of diapers made out of neem and coconut fibres.

The trio, comprising Kahjenthiran Gethe Daran, 15, as well as siblings Deneshwar Rao Prakash Rao, 15, and Kaushalya Prakash Rao, 16, defeated 288 teams from 21 countries to emerge champions at the World Science, Environment and Engineering Competition (WSEEC), which was held online from June 17 to 20, due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

It is worth noting that the students, from SMK Mohd Khalid, and SMK Sultan Ismail in Johor, have won numerous awards, both local and international, with their diaper invention called "Nano Neem Husk Diaper" in the last three years.

According to science teacher M Logesvery, who coached the team the victory, the idea for the diaper came when they were looking for a product that was friendly to the baby's skin, as well as to the parents' wallet.

"While researching, we came across diapers made out of bamboo and banana leaves for instance, but they were mostly based overseas, and it is not really practical for parents here to get them shipped over here.

"As parents to young children can attest to, it is common for babies to experience diaper rashes and skin problems with the conventional diapers. So we wanted to find a version that is both baby, and budget friendly," she told Astro Ulagam.

This is when the "Nano Neem Husk Diaper" was born, incorporating dried and treated coconut fibre, and particles of neem leaves, which is renowned for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. The two plants were chosen as they are also found in abundance in South East Asia.

The product took about two months to be finalised after various tests and trial and errors.

Logesvery said the diaper is more suitable to be used on newborn babies, due to the watery waste they produce. This is because coconut fibre has excellent absorbency quality.

Once used, the diapers can be buried in the soil, where they will disintegrate and become fertilizer for plants, she added.

Besides this group, three other groups comprising primary students from SJK (T) Taman Tun Aminah also won a gold medal and two silvers for their inventions, namely Clove Herbacide Spray, Nemeric Rocksalt Shower Gel, and BeOre Ba Life Tea, respectively, at WSEEC.

These teams were supervised by Logesvery and S Yuvarani, and their participation was assisted by the Malaysian Innovation, Invention and Creativity Association (MIICA).

Next, the team is looking for sponsorship to patent their product, which can cost up to RM15,000.

Congratulations kids on the win, and wishing you all the best for more fantastic wins in the future!

Photo source: M Logesvery