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Energy champion

Cambodian student wins prestigious gold medal for locally adapted biofuel method

Sam Ang Manin. Photo by: ELEANOR AINGE ROY

ZAMAN International High School student Sam Ang Manin won a gold medal at the International I-Sweep Competition held in the US last month.

It is only the second year the competition has taken place, and last year a student from Cambodia received a silver medal for her submission.

The competition's three main focus points were energy, engineering and the enviroment, and according to its website, it aims to give secondary students the opportunity to be "pre-imminent scientists and engineers of the future".

Sam Ang Manin submitted a design for turning jatropha oil into biodiesel in the "Senior Energy" category and, to her complete surprise, she was awarded a gold medal, a four-year scholarship to a university in Turkey, and $1,000 prize money.

The project took her three months of research and experimentation to perfect, aided by her chemistry teacher Mustafa Dur.

"For students to be good at science the most important thing is curiosity; they must be curious about the world around them and what is happening" Mustafa Dur said.

Sam Ang Manin's victory came despite what Mustafa Dur described as a disadvantage for Cambodian competitors due to their lack of both good laboratory facilities and a wide and reliable supply of chemicals. He said that unlike students from developed countries, Manin had to do everything herself.

Sam Ang Manin said had been interested in science since she was young and loved to experiment with different chemicals. "I enjoy creating things that are impossible to occur naturally," she said.

She said the idea of creating a new technique for producing biodiesel grew in her mind the more she learned about the nonrenewable and polluting properties of traditional fuels. However, she said she didn't anticipate how difficult the project would be.

"I was trying to follow an internet method on how to make biofuel but many of the components weren't available in Cambodia, so I had to change methods and make my own. But with every difficulty I overcame my confidence grew, and I thought maybe I actually had a chance of winning."

Sam Ang Manin said she planned to take up her four-year scholarship to study at a Turkish university and devote herself to a career in science. "I want to be a famous scientist like people I really admire... such as Newton." she said.

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