Teenagers Vicki Kleu and Austin Sawyer are bent on cleaning up the world’s oceans.
Kleu, a student at Lambrick Park Secondary, is the inventor of “Oil RiDD’rs” – biodegradable pads that can sop up 50 times their weight in oil during a toxic spill, but barely absorb any water. So far, the invention and its innovations have taken her to the Canada-Wide Science Fair three times and recently, the 18-year-old was in a Toronto television studio, pitching her idea to Canadian zillionaires on CBC’s Dragon’s Den.
“We [Kleu and her teacher/mentor Cheryl Nigh] made a deal with Jim Treliving and Arlene Dickinson that was contingent on finding third partner,” said Kleu from her home in Gordon Head. “Since then, we’ve had some oil companies approach us, and we sent them their way, but nothing really has gone through with them.”
Though the dragons haven’t responded to Kleu’s repeated emails, she says she found the experience encouraging, even though one of the dragons was tough to convince.
“Arlene loved the idea,” Kleu says with a smile. “Kevin O’Leary didn’t seem to grasp the concept.”
Unfortunately, CBC decided not to air Kleu’s appearance on the show’s eighth season.
Still optimistic, Kleu has recently taken on a partner to help bring her invention to the masses: Grade 11 science-whiz Austin Sawyer.
“I’ve been monitoring Vicki’s work and I’ve always been good friends with Cheryl Nigh,” said Sawyer, 17. “They trusted me enough to bring me on as a partner. It’s really been an amazing year and I have to thank them both.”
So far, the decision to team up with Sawyer has paid off. The duo placed first in the Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair in April, which means that they will pack their bags and head to Alberta to face some 500 of the county’s brightest young minds at the Canada-wide Science Fair on May 10.
“Nationals is a whole different story,” said Sawyer, who previously won silver at the Canada-Wide competition. “The judges seem to really like health related projects. But this year, with the Northern Gateway Pipeline, it’s different. They are putting $20 million into oil spill recovery – obviously it’s a huge issue.”