Shukla, 17, honored for her invention

Student achiever

April 24, 2002

The student: Kavita Shukla, 17

School: Centennial High

Special achievement: Kavita was one of six students nationwide inducted into the National Gallery for America's Young Inventors last year. She was honored for her food-preservation technology using fenugreek, an ancient Indian herb. Kavita's invention, a biodegradable packaging paper, won the Baltimore Science Fair, which enabled her to compete in May at the International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, Calif. There she earned the First Grand Award in Environmental Sciences.

Where did the spark for her invention come from? Five or six years ago, while visiting her grandmother in India, Kavita was brushing her teeth when she accidentally swallowed tap water that was not clean enough for drinking. Her grandmother gave her a yellow powder and said, "Drink this and you'll be fine."

Her research and testing: "At first, I was skeptical," Kavita says. "She said it was something that has been used for thousands of years in India to flavor curry." It was fenugreek, which had been used by her family for generations as a remedy for water-borne diseases. Kavita suffered no ill effects from the tap water and thought of the incident later when she saw packages of strawberries that had begun to rot. "I realized that the packaging should not only remove moisture, but also inhibit bacterial and fungal growth," she says. She then began her research and tests with fenugreek, which led to her invention.

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