A 17-year-old Florida student won a $100,000 college scholarship this week after discovering a new way to purify drinking water. Maria Elena Grimmett first became curious about water purification when she, then age 11, wanted to find out why her family’s tap water had a brownish tint. She began investigating and learned about common water pollution problems in her home state. In the six years following, Grimmett researched solutions to the pollution – and finally found one that happened to be worth quite a lot of money.

Maria Elena Grimmett, water purification, mn250, siemens competition, science, stem, kids in science, teen inventors

Grimmett learned that, nearby her home in the Florida Everglades, a common antibiotic used on farm animals was frequently polluting the drinking water supply. She set out to find a solution, embarking on a six-year research study conducted largely at her dining room table. What Grimmett looked at was using a special resin called MN250 that are “basically tiny plastic beads” known to be chemically sticky. The resin beads attract the antibiotics and pull them from the water.

Related: 14-year-old’s biofuel breakthrough boosts algae production by 500%

Like any good researcher, Grimmett packaged her findings in a way that makes them easier to put into practice. “With all the charts and graphs I’ve made, water engineers can design systems” to treat drinking water at scale, she said. Grimmett’s discovery snagged her the top prize at the 2015 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, a prestigious competition for young inventors. Two years ago, she became the youngest author ever to publish original research of the 43-year-old Journal of Environmental Quality, according to the Siemens Foundation. The teen revealed her secret to finding out what she wants to know: “Whenever I’m trying to read an article and I have no idea what it’s saying, I just email the author,” she said. “My mentor is the scientific community.”

Via Washington Post

Images via Siemens Competition and Shutterstock