October 14, 2022 News

East Middle School student places top 300 in STEM competition

East Middle School student, Shaily Pandya, studies at school. Photo courtesy of KCAU's Tyler Euchner
East Middle School student, Shaily Pandya, studies at school. Photo courtesy of KCAU's Tyler Euchner

Thousands of students across the US submitted research ideas of all kinds. Shaily Pandya, an 8th grade East Middle School student, chose a cause close to her heart: strawberries.

“It was about extending strawberry shelf life, cause I really like strawberries but they go bad really quickly. So I really wanted to figure out a way to extend their shelf life,” said Pandya.

Pandya started the experiment in June 2021. Her father, Nirav Pandya, gave her the idea for the project when they were in the kitchen.

“One day when we were like throwing it out I said, ‘You know how much water we are throwing out?’ That’s when she started thinking, `How can I save more water, how can I extend the shelf life of strawberries,’” said Nirav.

“I found that people tried different storage techniques, like storing it in a controlled environmen. I also found that people put wax coatings on their fruits and I didn’t want to put wax on my strawberries, even though it’s edible, so I decided to combine the preservatives and the coating together and make, like, an edible coating out of preservatives for the strawberries,” said Shaily.

With Shaily’s experiment, she was able to increase the life expectancy to 15 days, doubling its previous longevity.

“Initially when she came up with this idea, it was like very expensive to do this many iterations. So first, I told her to do like a few strawberries every time we buy strawberries. Once she demonstrated that yes, her idea is working, then we bought analytical instruments and I gave her a budget to buy more strawberries,” said Nirav.

“I would take a box of strawberries and coat them with my coatings using a electrostatic particle sprayers, so I don’t like use that many preservatives going on. And I would store them in our refrigerator and check their TDS, Ph levels, and fruit firmness in 48 hour intervals,” said Shaily.

Watch Shaily’s full interview on KCAU