Local student wins $20K in Youth Sustainability Awards

Kyle Tianshi
(CG Roxane)

A sophomore at the Cambridge School won a $20,000 award in the California Youth Sustainability Awards for a laser he developed that can show microscopic particles in water.

“I was pretty shocked and I kind of freaked out in the middle of our school courtyard,” said Kyle Tianshi, 15, who lives in Rancho Penasquitos. “But it was a really great moment.”

The competition, operated by Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water, encourages California students “to continue making a sustainable impact upon their communities and the people around them,” according to its website.

Kyle’s device, called NEREID, has also won awards at the Broadcom MASTERS, the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, and the International Science and Engineering Fair. He said his mom heard about the Youth Sustainability Awards on Facebook and told him about it.

“I knew that the awards really fit my research well and I decided to apply for it,” he said.

Kyle’s prize money came with the Hero Award, the competition’s top honor. Two students, one from San Jose and the other from Corte Madera, received $10,000 each for winning the Champions Award, and three students won $5,000 each for the Leader Award.

Kyle added that he came up with the idea for NEREID based on his experience growing up in San Diego.

“California has always been in this perpetual drought, growing up,” he said. “That was really all I heard. Our front yard turned from real grass to dead grass to artificial grass, things like that, so drought has been a pretty big feature in my California life so far.”

NEREID can show particles in water, Kyle said, the same way a beam of light can reveal dust particles in the air.

“Same concept,” he said.

Kyle said he plans to donate $1,000 to Team Seas, a campaign to remove 30 million pounds of trash from the ocean by the end of this year. Much of it will help support his future research.

“Some of the research that I might be doing in the future might be a little pricey in some areas, so this money will be really helpful,” Kyle said.

And he spent a little for a sushi dinner with his family to celebrate.

Kyle also said he would like an opportunity to collaborate with Crystal Geyser.

“I think it would be really cool if I could somehow partner with them to implement my device in their facilities or test some of their water,” he said. “I think that would be a really cool partnership.”