How to Stimulate a Young Inventor with Angelina Arora
For the sixth episode of Impressive, a young scientist by the name of Angelina Arora, the inventor of bioplastic, tells the story behind her interesting work and how it has been taking her to greater heights. Also, she shares the insights that she gained while on her journey towards success.
Listen up as we explore:
- How Angelina’s parents supported her passion for science and inventing.
- How to seek out a support network of teachers, professors and mentors to make your dreams a reality.
- How to find friends who are equally passionate about their own endeavours, while balancing schoolwork with international research.
Enjoy the Episode
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Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 00:08
Hello, I'm Dr. Kimberley O'Brien, a child psychologist, entrepreneur, and mum with a passion for problem solving and family adventures. Join me each week for practical tips and on air consultations with the smartest, kindest parents and their incredible kids. Find answers faster, do things differently, and take your family further. This is impressive. This episode is sponsored by britechild.com. Now let's get started.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 00:34
Hello and thank you so much for joining us this week on Impressive. I was lucky enough to speak to a young scientist by the name of Angelina Arora, who's based in Sydney, and she made some amazing discoveries when she was 15. She's only 16 now. She goes to Sydney Girls High School, and she's quite an inspiration for young female scientists and also really for purpose driven parents who would love to see their children have just as many opportunities as Angelina. So without further ado, she's gonna tell you all about the discoveries that she's made and how she's made that happen. Thanks for listening. I see you as a famous Australian young scientist who's won lots of prizes. And so it's Angelina Arora from Sydney Girls High School. Is that right? In year 10? Yeah.
Angelina Arora: 01:26
Yeah, year 11.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 01:27
Year 11 now. Okay. Good job. So maybe do you wanna start from the beginning of the story where you found the prawn shells and then somehow after lots and lots of research managed to turn it into a biodegrade wall plastic.
Angelina Arora: 01:41
So I actually started off at school as a year nine project. I was looking for something to do and I was at a local supermarket, and that was the time where they used to charge the plastic bags. So I thought, I asked the cashier at the point, Oh, why do you charge for plastic bags? Cause I've always been really curious about everything. And she replied to me to save the environment and to deter people from using plastic. And that's where it hit me that something needs to be done where the environment is not deteriorating, but humans can still have their convenience of using plastic bags. So I went into looking at cornstarch for starch and tapioca plastics from different amounts of blistering to see which one was best for commercial use. And I found the corn one was actually pretty good, but it was really impractical because it was soluble in water, which if it rains or groceries would just be on the floor and also taking away a potential food product. So that's when I was thinking into looking into waste and going on from that. But it did exhibit the strength, flexibility, endurance, as well as it decomposed a lot faster than conventional plastics.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 02:52
So then what made you think of the prawns? How and what does it look like on a daily basis? Are you in the lab at school for hours on end in the evening or Yeah. How did it all start to evolve and then when you struck gold and realised you'd found the missing link? Yeah, tell me about that moment as well.
Angelina Arora: 03:08
So after I was going into looking at waste, I looked at banana peal, It didn't work. I looked at a lot of things and it didn't work, but then it just kind of hit me. One day I was having dinner and I was having prawns and it was a day after a long day in the lab and I saw they look kind of plasticy, what makes them look like plastic, essentially. It's a carbohydrate called kitten inside the shells of them. And then I had a professor and we talked through it and we were like, okay, what could be done with this? And potentially could we extract it, mix it with something and make a plastic product out of it. So it was super amazing just to finally, after so many years of work and so many years of researching and failing to finally get to that moment where something had worked.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 03:56
Yes. So how long did that take from start to finish? How many months or years would that take?
Angelina Arora: 04:03
So from all the way back to the start, that was around a year and then a year and a half ago. So two and a half years
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 04:11
And did you ever start to, I guess, lose your focus or think, Oh, this is too hard, or you were just so focused and you just knew it would work eventually?
Angelina Arora: 04:23
Yeah, so that was one of the greatest challenges I found. So learning, I never actually dealt with failure before. Everything's kind of been good just doing well and stuff. But being in the lab, things aren't going to work most of the time, every day of failing to one success, specifically with the ratios in my product, just what to mix and how to mix it, that really wasn't working. And there were points where I was like, Should I give up? Maybe it's not going to work. And I was doubting, but I think I had to think back to the motivation behind it and why I started off doing it in the beginning, it was to make a difference and to save the environment as well as what I've always strived for helping people. So just thinking back to that made me want to continue on. And after all I knew that after all this, it's just how to see a failure as a learning progress rather than a failure. And just seeing it as a step to success grow from it and be resilient and approach the problem logically. Think through it. Why is this not working? How can we make it work? Rather than, let's just give up.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 05:31
Yeah. So tell me more about how you developed that attitude and maybe your parents, How have they helped with this process?
Angelina Arora: 05:40
Yeah, so they've always been my number one supporters. They've always been there to support me, to take me to the labs and everything. So I've always kind of grown up in a way where you know, can't give up. You start something and you continue on doing it until you achieve what you want to achieve. So that's kind of how I've been raised. And I guess that reflects into the work I do and everything I do now, because I know that there's no point in giving up really early on.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 06:13
I love it.
Angelina Arora: 06:14
Nothing is impossible, basically.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 06:18
So good. So can you remember when you were really little, what's your earliest memory, maybe when you were a toddler and what were you like as a toddler? And then how did you grow up into this person that's so curious and so committed and so patient, all those qualities, How did that all kind of take shape?
Angelina Arora: 06:39
Well, I've always been really curious just about everything. I remember I was five, I was in a book shop and first book I picked, wasn't like a Disney princess or a fairytale, it was a book with a fake heart on the front of it, and that it was an atlas, it's a human body. And I just loved that. I've always been interested in science and curious about how things work. Why is the sky blue or how do you get something to be the way it is today? And how did it come about? How did it evolve? So I've always asked my parents probably annoyed them a little bit, just continuously with questions that they can't answer most of the time. And after all, science is the key to all the mysteries in the world. It's that core of the universe, which we revolve around. So that's why I love to do it so much because it has an answer to every problem. Or if it doesn't, you can find it.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 07:28
And do you mentor younger children as well?
Angelina Arora: 07:33
So I go out, I work with young scientists of Australia volunteering as well as I've received an overwhelming amount of incredible support from the media that's really allowed me a platform to get the word out and show people, as well as talking with politicians about introducing more science at a young age where children aren't influenced by stereotypes or where they have a very open mind and can do whatever their passion is. So having science at a young age allows interest to go and I've always got along with younger kids and the biggest thing that I found is when they come up to you and say, Oh my God, you're such an inspiration. You've done so much and I really wanna follow in your footsteps. Now I see that it's possible and it can be done. And it motivates them and encourages them to do more and to do what they want to do because they can see it's possible. So that's why I like to go out to schools. I've spoken at a couple of school events as well as big industry events that have been on television or radio or whatever.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 08:40
Yeah. So it's just so many amazing opportunities have opened up. Did you sort of see that when you were doing the work? Did you think, I really want to win that award or I really want to win that prize? Did you know where you are headed and do you still feel that you've got a goal in mind?
Angelina Arora: 08:55
So I didn't actually know about these prizes when I was doing it, I didn't think about that. I thought about the reason of why to do it, to help the environment, to help overall. And after I was exposed to all these prizes, I just kept want wanting to go and go and go and see how far it could take me. But rather than the prize itself, it's only a symbol of the journey behind it. It opens a door too many opportunities. And winning those prizes was a reason I wanted to do it because they were a reason where I could do so much other than just in the prize. For example, the BHG built innovator to market prize. It allowed me to put my work into action. After all, an invention doesn't really have much of a purpose sitting there in the lab. It's not until you can take it to market, commercialised products, put it into people's lives. It can only then have its impact on the world that it was meant to have on the environment and on people. So going from there, I also allowed, it also allowed me to represent Australia.
Angelina Arora: 10:02
Yeah, I've never been so proud to be Australian and I could represent the country internationally. It also allowed me to be around people who share the same passion and take inspiration from them as well, As well as collaborative science. It's all about collaboration. So it was just a melting pot of ideas. And it was so good to be in America at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where you can learn from people what they've done to get there, how you could possibly do it together, how people should help out to encourage everybody else.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 10:42
So that was in Pennsylvania and it was lots of high school students, is that right? So similar age or whole bunch of different ages?
Angelina Arora: 10:51
Most of them were year 12. Some of them had already graduated, but the age was up to 18, 19, so it was pre-college and it was 1,800 students from 78 different countries.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 11:06
Crazy. So what was happening? They were just walking around? Tell me about that atmosphere.
Angelina Arora: 11:12
Yeah, it was so good. Everyone was so supportive and we didn't feel like we were from 78 different countries. We all just felt one because we all shared a common passion and that spoken common language to science. And you could also learn from people with their cultures and how they've grown up to apply it and look at different problems from different perspective.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 11:34
Great. So did you come back thinking, All right, now I'm gonna do this and that. A whole long list of things that you wanna still do and Yeah, Exactly. Very helpful
Angelina Arora: 11:43
Yeah, I need to solve this problem, this problem, this problem.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 11:47
Where is it heading? Do you have a destination or is it still more about the journey and just making it as fulfilling as possible? Possible?
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 11:58
I'm just ducking in here. It's Dr. Kim O'Brien to let you know about Quirky Kids' performance psychology program for children aged seven to 12 years. The program is called Power Up. So it's performance psychology, helping kids to perform in things like exams, dance performances, or a musical presentation of some sort. Anything that involves a performance. Kids are often quite anxious and the Power Up program teaches them how to overcome their anxiety by having a plan. If you'd like to find out more about Power Up and about how we adapted this program that is typically used for adult athletes into something for children, please go to quirkykid.com.au. That's quirkykid.com.au. And find out more about Power Up.
Angelina Arora: 12:52
I've always really been interested in medicine and I really wanna do medicine. I think it's about helping, whether it be people or the environment or whatever, But I think medicine has a real way of doing that. Because it combines humanities as well as science. And it brings together my true loves and it's a perfect balance. And I think it's just so good to be an environment where you can hear people's stories, think on your feet, as well as the feeling of just putting a smile on someone's face with my plastic or encouraging young girls as well as it brings a new outlook on life. And I think that's why I really want to do it. So I'm probably headed down that path. But overall I'd like to continue researching, maybe making advances in medicine with this. Also, I'm looking into making it into dissolvable as well as different kind of products, or in the health space.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 13:46
Awesome. I wish you every success with your dream to get into medicine and to do more amazing things and to help more people. Tell me a little bit more about school and how you juggle all this. Cause I'm thinking year 11 HSC, this has gotta be busy. So how do you maintain your focus when there's so many different opportunities?
Angelina Arora: 14:08
Yeah, it's honestly hard. I've kind of learnt to say no, kind of take a step back and say no to a couple of things, which I want to do but overall, I think I just kind of juggle. I really don't have much time, but I think I make the most out of the time that I have. So whether it's going to university in the morning and then going to school straight from there, and then coming back to university and then keeping up with debating and co-curriculars and public speaking as well, and playing sport and volunteering and all of that. So just making most of the time that I have now.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 14:44
What were you saying? I interrupted.
Angelina Arora: 14:46
It gets harder at times, but overall it's quite manageable. And again, just making use of class time as well as every moment I get at home, I'm always doing something.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 14:57
So how do you manage stress? I'm thinking people in that position would obviously feel stressed sometimes, I'm guessing, right? But you don't seem stressed, you seem really laid back. I mean, it's school holidays at the moment, I wonder what's your secret to just time management and staying so positive? How could you help other kids with that kind of formula?
Angelina Arora: 15:23
Yeah, so I think I don't get stressed that much, I obviously do a little bit at sometimes. But overall, a look at the big picture of things and rather than looking at the small details, obviously the small details are very important, but looking at where that fits into the rest of it.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 15:43
Taking a step back and then just getting perspective rather than getting obsessed with the details and feeling stuck.
Angelina Arora: 15:51
Yeah, exactly. But also this has allowed me to go out into the real world and see what it's like rather than just being stuck in the micro of school
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 15:59
What role do friends play in that? I'm feeling like as you're maturing through adolescence, it's less maybe time with parents and family and more time with friends. So do your friends share your passion or do you do different things with your friends and you kind of focus on science independently?
Angelina Arora: 1621
Yeah, I'm very fortunate to go to a school where everyone is so talented at something in their own. And my friends, they don't necessarily share a passion for science. They like science as pretty much everyone in my grade does, but they have their own things and it's just good to come back and share, Oh, so what have you done in that? And what have I done in this? And just support each other through that. And they've been a really good support network.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 16:48
And do they go to university too? You mentioned in the morning before school, you go to university and I'm guessing you use the labs there or something, or that's where your professor is. And do your friends do that too? Or is that just because you've excelled to this level that your kind of past school and into uni already?
Angelina Arora: 17:05
No, they don't do that.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 17:07
So when did all that start? When did you start to grow out of high school and into university? Even though you're only 16, is that right? 17 Amazing. Yeah, go for it. Tell me that part.
Angelina Arora: 17:21
Yeah, so it was from my cornstarch plastic. So that was all done at school and at home, but some resources weren't available and everything. So I emailed a hundred professors and none of them replied. And just a little bit of call emailing and calling and just finding people. And through that I eventually found somebody after a heap of nos, I finally got a yes. And then from there it went on to doing things and then introduced to new people, new spaces, new equipment, and kind of growing from there.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 17:55
Do you want to mention the name of your professor and the university that we're really open to taking you on board? I feel like that's just such forward thinking. And when you think of those 99 institutions that said no, it feels like they really missed out
Angelina Arora: 18:10
Yeah, it's pretty much all of the institutions in Sydney as well as a couple of interstate as well. So I don't wanna regret the things that I didn't do, but regret the things that I did. So that kind of allows me to keep on going and keep on exploring. So those are two things that I kind of live my life by.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 18:29
Sorry can you say that again? Don't regret the things you didn't do? What was that?
Angelina Arora: 18:34
Don't regret the things that you didn't do, but regret the things you did.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 18:37
Okay. So pretty much just, yeah, don't say no to anything. Just jump in and have a go.
Angelina Arora: 18:43
Yeah, just have a go at everything. Be open minded. Just take everything that comes at you.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 18:49
Excellent attitude. And thank you so much for your time today. I just feel like I'm gonna be seeing your picture in the paper and probably using your plastic at some point in the future. And yeah, as I said, I just wish you every success and thank you so much for talking to us on the Quirky Kid podcast.
Angelina Arora: 19:05
No worries. Thank you so much for having me.
Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 19:08
Okay, Angelina, have a good afternoon. And that concludes our interview with Angelina Aurora. Thank you so much for joining us. If you'd like to find out more about Angelina's Discoveries, you can go to our show notes quirkykid.com.au. That's quirkykid.com.au/impressive. Or join us on the Facebook group, just search Impressive and you'll find us there a purpose driven parents group where we love to communicate and create community. It'll be great to see you there. My name's Dr. Kim O'Brien. Thanks for joining us. We'll see you again next week.