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A 5th-grader invented a sandless sandbag to fight floods more effectively

If today’s horrible pop music and declining standardized test scores have you worried about America’s youth, check out this kid’s invention and prepare to have your faith in humanity restored.

Born and raised in the hurricane punching bag we humans call Florida, 11-year-old Peyton Robertson knows firsthand the damage that extreme weather can cause. After witnessing the widespread flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy last year, he came up with a a sand-free sandbag system that blocks water more effectively and is significantly lighter than traditional sandbags. His idea recently won the top prize at the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, for which he was awarded $25,000 and crowned “America’s Top Young Scientist.” 

Here’s how the invention works: Rather than being filled with sand, Robertson’s bags are filled with a mixture of salt and a super-absorbent polymer. The mixture only weighs about two pounds when dry, but once it’s introduced to water, it expands to over 200 percent of it’s original size and fills out the bag. Thanks to the addition of salt, the polymer mixture is also denser than seawater, so when it expands there’s no chance of water getting through. Robertson also developed an interlocking fastener system that keeps multiple bags in place while they expand, ensuring that no gaps are created and no water can escape through. Due to the fact that they’re significantly lighter than regular sand-filled ones, these bags would arguably be easier and faster to deploy in the event of a natural disaster. 

Check out the video below to see Robertson explain his invention:

Pretty brilliant, right? The craziest part is that these sandbags aren’t even this kid’s first invention. According to his bio on the Young Scientist Challenge website, he’s also designed and built a golf ball warmer (to preserve the ball’s performance in colder environments) and a pair of retractable training wheels he built for his sisters when they were learning to ride bikes.

When asked what he plans to do with his $25,000 contest winnings, Robertson said that he’ll “definitely put it towards college” which, at this rate, might just be few years away for the kid. 

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