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

kid scientist invents sandbags sandless floods water hurricane sandy

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. 

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Xbox One S vs. PlayStation 4 Slim: Which console is worth your money?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.

PDF to JPG conversion is quick as a few clicks with these simple methods

Converting file formats can be an absolute pain, but it doesn't have to be. We've put together a comprehensive guide on how to convert a PDF to JPG, no matter which operating system you're running.

Calibrate your display to get it looking just the way you like it

Want to see images the way they're intended to be seen? Here is our quick guide on how to calibrate your monitor using your operating system or another tool, to make what's on the screen look as good as it can.
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.