The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) at Texas Tech University has made history for the Technical Association of Pulp and Paper Industry’s (TAPPI) nonwovens division by involving of high school students in its cotton nonwovens research.
Kahan Chavda, a senior from St. Mark’s School of Texas; Aarav Chavda, a junior from St. Mark’s School of Texas; Ronald Kendall Jr., a senior from Lubbock, CO High School; and Luke Kitten, a senior from Lubbock Trinity High School in Colorado, participated in the research.
The research from these high school students contributed to the work on oil absorption by cotton nonwovens and was presented at TAPPI's nonwovens conference in Atlanta this fall.
“This is a very significant achievement,” said TAPPI president Larry Montague. “To my knowledge this is the first time that high school students were specifically targeted and brought to an event like TAPPI.”
The students not only attended the conference but also participated in the program sessions, as well as interacted with professionals already working in the nonwovens industry.
“In the five years I have been with TAPPI, I have not seen a group like this prior to TIEHH’s outreach program,” Montague says. “The attendees for this conference were very impressed with how these students dressed and interacted with some of the industry’s best and brightest.”
TIEHH’s research focuses on West Texas cotton, specifically the 10% of cotton that, due to the weather in the region, doesn’t fully mature and must be sold at a discounted rate.
“What our lab thought two years back was why can’t we take this discounted cotton and find new market opportunities for that cotton,” says Seshadri Ramkumar, associate professor of nonwoven materials and countermeasures to chemical threats.
Vinit Singh, a graduate student at Texas Tech, found that the discounted cotton absorbs more oil than higher quality cotton and to prove that he enlisted the help of the high school students to assist in conducting research.
Utkarsh Sata, a postdoctoral associate in Ramkumar’s laboratory guided Chavda brothers this summer to find added applications for cotton nonwovens.
“I became interested in it a few years back when Fibertect started getting some recognition,” Kendall says. “I get to do some cool things out here which makes it fun to talk about with people and gets some of my fellow classmates interested in it.”