Mason high schooler receives $10K for invention

(Photo courtesy of Barron Prize)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — A Mason high schooler has been named a winner of the 2022 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes for her invention, receiving a $10,000 prize.

The Barron Prize annually honors 25 outstanding young leaders who have made a significant positive impact on people, their communities, and the environment. Fifteen top winners each receive $10,000 to support their service work or higher education, according to a release.

Laalitya Achary, 18, invented Nereid, a low-cost, globally applicable device that can detect water contamination within seconds. Her system uses Artificial Intelligence and can be placed directly into water pipes to detect microbial water contamination at low concentrations before it spreads.

Slightly bigger than a cell phone, Nereid costs approximately $75 and only requires access to low power. The device takes microscopic images of water and runs the photos through a custom neural network that Laalitya designed. It then transmits the information to a water plant or local authorities, notifying them of any contamination, the release states.

She is currently field-testing Nereid in her hometown near Cincinnati as well as in Morocco, in collaboration with Columbia University’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

Laalitya began her project at age 15 following a trip to visit relatives in India, where she and her family fell ill from drinking contaminated water. She resolved to address the water crisis and launched The Nereid Project to help through innovation and education.

Along with inventing her AI device, she has hosted more than 200 Water Summits to teach people of all ages about the severity of water poverty and ways to help alleviate it.

“I am truly grateful to everybody who has been a part of The Nereid Project’s journey,” Laalitya said. “Our story has just begun, and I’m so excited to see where it goes.”