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LI teens win top $10G prize in Clean Tech contest

Alyssa Iryami, 15, center, and Audrey Shine, 16,

Alyssa Iryami, 15, center, and Audrey Shine, 16, right, students in the Plainview-Old Bethpage school district, won the first-place $10,000 prize in the international Clean Tech competition, held at Stony Brook University on July 14, 2017. With them is Mary Lou O'Donnell, their teacher and adviser. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Two Plainview-Old Bethpage students won the first-place $10,000 prize Friday in the international Clean Tech science contest, an event newly moved to Long Island.

Teammates Alyssa Iryami, 15, and Audrey Shine, 16, took top honors with an eco-friendly project entitled “SuperSilk,” which converted silkworm cocoons to low-cost water purification filters. Both students will enter 11th grade at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in September.

“It’s a great day to be a girl!” said Iryami, adding that she hopes the contest results will encourage more females to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, subjects.

Iryami and Shine vied with teams from five other states, Singapore and the Philippines. The competition drew a total 230 entries from students in the United States and 26 other countries around the globe, sponsors said.

This marks the sixth year of Clean Tech and the first year that judging has been held at Stony Brook University. Last year’s event took place aboard a cruise ship anchored in Dominican Republic waters.

The latest round of judging was moved to Long Island, after a Hauppauge-based corporation, Spellman High Voltage Electronics, pledged most of the event’s funding for the next two years. Annual prize money totals more than $30,000.

Competition organizer Ray Ann Havasy, a former Port Washington teacher and a fixture in Islandwide science education for 30 years, described Stony Brook as the logical setting for such an event. She cited the campus’ longtime support for research performed by high school students and college undergraduates.

“It’s a great match,” Havasy said.

For their project, Shine and Iryami raised silkworms in their homes, feeding them a diet of mulberry leaves and graphene, an allotrope of carbon that gave the silk extra tensile strength.

The girls pursued the project for a full school year, then continued their work into the summer.

“They’ve got the drive, they’ve got the intellect,” said Mary Lou O’Donnell, who has taught science research in Plainview-Old Bethpage for 10 years.

A second-place $7,000 prize went to a team of three 12th-graders from Quezon City in the Philippines. Their project revolved around a web application used to conserve electricity, which is in short supply in many rural homes.

One team member, Philippe Bungabong, 17, said he enjoyed his visit to Long Island despite the 24 hours of flight required to get here.

“It’s very green,” Bungabong said.

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