ANDOVER — Anna Du wants to save the world, and that's an ambitious goal for a 12-year-old girl.
Her home at 16 Evergreen Lane, where she lives with her mother and father, has a room filled with self-constructed projects she has created through the years. Using items as simple as a CD player she found on a beach at Castle Island, Du was able to transform the parts into projects for a better cause.
Her path to success began with a simple love for the ocean and the beach, and a video she watched at school. Du attends the Andover School of Montessori, where she is in the seventh grade.
“We were watching a video about how plastics were affecting the environment and I was really horrified because I also love animals, so I wanted to do something to try and help solve that problem and save the world,” she said.
Du put her love for the beach and her passion for the environment to use and constructed an underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle) that uses infrared LED lights of varying wavelengths to separate microplastics from other particles.
She hypothesized this project would help researchers analyze the ocean floor quickly and inexpensively.
The ROV is controlled by a remote and detects where plastics are in the ocean. Du said she believes it’s more logical to first know where the plastics are and then go directly there to clean them up, since the ocean is such a gigantic place.
“This is just a first step in what I am planning to do. In the future I hope to create an AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) that goes in the water by itself and doesn’t need anybody to control it,” she said.
Working mainly by herself, Du constructed the ROV at MIT in Cambridge. She has been working on it since October 2017.
“I’ve had some tips from my mentors, but I’ve mostly been building it by myself,” she said.
Since Du was 5 years old, she has been attending MIT every Saturday to build projects with assistance from staff members there. She loves science and engineering, and this has been a way for her to learn and strengthen her skills.
Du was the only student from Massachusetts selected from a record high of 2,537 applicants in 35 states to compete in the Broadcom MASTERS, by placing among the top 10 percent of middle school competitors at Society-affiliated regional and state science fairs, including the Massachusetts Northeast Regional Science and Engineering Fair.
Her underwater ROV led her to first place in the Massachusetts Northeast Regional Science and Engineering Fair in June 2018.
Du was then named a top 30 finalist in the 8th annual Broadcom MASTERS. The competition is a science, technology, engineering and mathematics middle school competition.
This month she will travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in a rigorous competition to test and demonstrate her skills of critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration in each of the STEM areas.
“I’m nervous because this is a big competition and there are going to be a lot of super smart people there, but I’m also pretty excited for what’s going to happen there too,” Du said.
Du said she hopes to attend MIT when she is older.
“I’m not too sure what I want to do in life, I just know I want to build stuff, she said. “Maybe I’ll be an environmental engineer so I can help save the world.”