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…AS OUR STUDENTS TRAVEL TO US, TO SHOW THE WORLD HOW TO KILL MOSQUITO WITH ORANGE PEELS!

By NBF News
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At the age of 23, Isaac Newton, an English Physicist and Mathematician, was relaxing in his mother's farm when he saw an apple falling from a tree. That simple incident aroused his curiosity, as he wondered why apples always tumble down, while the pale August moon continued to sail contentedly overhead.

These thoughts later crystallised into Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation. The falling of an apple was all it took to trigger off a major scientific work. He was able to calculate that a falling apple would be pulled downward about 10 miles, but the moon would fall toward the earth only about 16 ft. Today, Newton has engraved his name in gold in the pages of history as a renowned physicist and mathematician.

Similarly one day, last year, one of the JETS (Junior Engineers and Technicians) students at Doregos Private Academy, Ipaja, Lagos, a girl, went to Ayobo village, in Lagos suburb and saw them burning orange peels to drive away mosquitoes. She felt there must be something in those peels that can drive away insects. On returning to the school, she told her story in a meeting of JETS club.

Miss Fatiha Olabisi, a 15-year-old student of the school was surfing the Internet one day when she decided to find out the chemical components of the orange peels. Fatiha discovered that orange peels, which were often discarded as waste, held the key to the age-long war against mosquitoes, vectors of malaria.

Today, Fatiha and two other female students of Doregos Academy, Quadri Sukurat and Abiodun Yetunde have become pioneer student scientists, sort of, in the country, promoting the use of orange peels in the production of insecticide, seasoning, herbal beverage, hand-wash, stain-remover, and even chocolate candies. All the students in the project group are in SS2, and also active members of JETS club of their school.

Presentations and exhibitions
Recently, the 'wonder kids' presented their work at the National Science Festival, organised for schools nationwide in Abuja. From hundreds of presentations made at the exhibition, the group emerged as the overall best and were also chosen, along with other two schools, to represent Nigeria at this year's INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair holding in Los Angeles, USA, from May 8 to 13.

Other schools include School for the Gifted, Abuja, and Omat School, Ikorodu, Lagos. Education Review visited the amazing kids recently at their school in Ipaja, an institution that prides itself as the 'College of Champions'.

Located inside Federal Low Cost Housing Estate (Shagari Estate), Akinogun bus stop, Ipaja, the institution was ventilated with the serenity of a world-class school. The school, founded in 1990, has St Bernadette's Private School, for nursery and primary pupils. In what could be described as a heritage of excellence, two of the 'wonder girls', were discovered to have attended St Bernadette's in their infancy.

During the encounter, our reporter gathered that Sukurat and Fatiha attended St Bernadette's School while Yetunde attended St Monica, Ikorodu. But they also share a lot in common. They are both 15. They are all in SSS2 Science class. They also belong to the JETS club. Sukurat and Yetunde want to pursue a career in Medicine, but Fatiha wants to read Pharmacy.

Surprisingly, the three girls are not the closest friends in the school. Although they share interest in research work, they live world apart in social relationship. However, one strong bond that unites them is their devotion to work, and their allied force against insects, especially mosquitoes. The three girls hate mosquito with great passion, as they described it as the most unwanted enemy in every household.

It took this reporter over two hours listening to the girls explain step-by-step process of their research work. The group leader, Fatiha, who also initiated the project, has every detail of the work on her finger tips. Hear her: 'The project is basically about locally-made things.

Every single thing we used was sourced locally. For the liquid insecticide, dried orange peels were collected, soaked in water for four to seven days just to aid the separation of the oil. You can achieve this also in two ways. Either you soak the orange peels or you grind the orange peels with water. If you have much time, you can soak it in water but if you are short of time, you can grind it together with water. The next thing is to decant the oil to get the liquid.

'For the mosquito coil, orange peels were grinded and later roasted. After the roasting, they were mixed with water and starch to enable us mould it to the shape of a coil. But we discovered that when we used starch, it took the coil much longer time to burn, which means that it wouldn't produce the smoke fast. So, we mixed it with water and dried it in an oven. You may also sun-dry it if the oven is not available. We have not really molded it into the normal shape of mosquito coil you find in the market, but it has taken a shape to aid the burning.'

Ingredient in orange peels
On what aroused their interest in the project, Fatiha said: 'According to the World Health Organisation, malaria is the number one killer disease in tropical Africa. It affects over 5.6 million people annually. Malaria is not a respecter of age, which means that it can affect anybody, anytime. Malaria is becoming difficult to control because mosquitoes are becoming resistant to conventional insecticides often used by many families.

The mosquito parasites are also becoming resistant to malaria drugs. So, you can see that it is a general problem. So, we thought of what we could produce to help people in rural areas. We thought of a product that would be affordable and without any side effect to people's health. That is how we came up with orange pills because in the olden days, people in the village burn orange pills as repellent against mosquitoes', she said.

Fatiha, from Oyo State, said an active ingredient in orange peels, known as limonene, could be used as strong repellent for insects, especially mosquitoes. 'You know that when you are peeling an orange, there is something like vapour that causes discomfort in your eyes. That is the limonene. What we did was to soak the orange peels to enable us extract the citric oil it contains. The citric oil floats on top of the water when these orange peels are soaked for some days. Then, we removed the orange peels and separated the oily substance from the water. From our research, limonene has no side effect on the human body.'

While elaborating on the choice of biological material instead of chemical substance, Sukurat, from Kwara State, said their research revealed that biological materials were safer than other chemical materials. While other chemical substances could have harsh effects on the body system, biological materials are purely natural and devoid of such risks. 'Insecticide produced from orange peels has no other chemical content except substances extracted from the peels. Long exposure to the substance from orange peels does not constitute any risk or trigger negative side-effects on the body', she lectured.

To prove their case, Fatiha said they also had a control experiment where they compared insecticide produced from orange peels with other brands in the market. 'When you spray a room with these brands of insecticides in the market, it tends to choke your breath, which could cause serious discomfort. So, when these substances are used, the person must leave the room for sometimes, to reduce the harsh effect. But in our own product, you can stay because it has the sweet-smelling scent of an orange. You can stay in the room after spraying it. While it deals harshly on the insects, it does no harm to the person in the room,' she said.

Beaming winsome smiles as female marketers are won't to do, Yetunde, who hails from Lagos State, explained that the cost advantage of the new product, with the unit price of N250 to N300, makes it the first choice among other competing brands. 'Because the orange peels are highly effective, you discover that less quantity of the product is used, which makes it last much longer than other products in the market. Also, mosquitoes are becoming resistant to some insecticides due to constant use. These products, when used, only weaken the insects, without actually killing them. But, insecticides produced from orange peels are relatively new to the body system of these insects. The toxic effect on these insects is much higher than other common products', she explained.

Other uses of orange peels
The peels can also be used to produce hand wash, chocolate candies, stain remover, food seasoning/preservative, air freshener and herbal beverages, they revealed to Education Review. They can be used, as well, to separate glued parts or remove paint from wood just by a simple process of crushing and extracting the oils and applying to the glued part.

Apart from the study on the orange peels, Fatiha is also among the group that is working on another ground-breaking project, the fuel-less power generating plant. According to her, it is the generation of power without fuel, without releasing obnoxious gases, noiseless. She said the system was based on electro-magnetic induction. The generator also has a specific feature that makes it unique when compared with normal conventional generators in the market. It is highly innovative and can be controlled from anywhere in the world, irrespective of the distance or barrier.

Our reporter was also curious why the team was made up of only girls, but Fatiha said the members of the group were selected based on individual projects presented at JETS club. 'Nothing scares the boys from our group. The fact is that we have the JETS Club and we are all members. I am a group leader in the club. In the club, we compete among one another. We presented our projects, both the boys and the girls and the three best projects were selected by the teachers, who served as the judges. My project was the first among the three and it was on the orange peel. Another student also presented the fuel-less generator project. From there, they will select the projects they want', she said.

To prove the honesty of the research work, our reporter also met the class teacher who has been supervising the project, Lawal Olaide. He stoutly denied speculations that the work could be the voice of Jacob, but the hands of Esau. Rather, he said the school has the culture of identifying young talents and guiding them to a more productive use.

'I only oversee the work they are doing. Every project has risks, so, I have to watch them closely. When they produced the beverage from orange peels, someone needed to taste it. You know it was risky because it could contain something poisonous. So, we have to check the internet again and again, to know if orange peels contain any toxic substance that could be injurious to healthg. My role as a teacher was to identify the areas of risk, and see how such could be minimised', he said.

He noted that the research efforts of the students of the school are mostly funded by the proprietress, as no recognition ever came from the government. According to him, the school produced a device to promote the use of crash helmet, but there had been no encouragement from the government. Instead of using policemen to enforce compliance to the use of helmet, the device could be installed on a motor-bike, and once the users do not wear their helmets, the engine will not start, he reported.

Olaide, a 1992 graduate of University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, said he sent a mail to the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) but there has been no reply. 'Let them invite us and allow us to demonstrate how it works. If they are not satisfied, there is no problem. But let them give us an opportunity to showcase the work first. Nigeria can become great if we pay due recognition to science and technology,' he said.

Also speaking, the principal of the college, Jide Adebayo, said some members of the National Universities Commission (NUC), in collaboration with research institutes, visited the school to inspect the fuel-less generator. According to him, the visitors described the project as a world science project, and later sent a letter informing the school that the project has been approved.

Adebayo said the NUC team is exploring the possibility of joining the school with any research institute in any university in the South-West, possibly University of Ibadan, University of Lagos or the Obafemi Awolowo University. 'At our level, there is little we can do. That is why they are trying to link us up with any of the research institute in any university closest to us,' he noted.