Peyton Robertson at just 11 years old has come up with a simple but effective alternative to traditional sandbags, which are used to contain flooding. His solution: a lightweight, sandless sandbag, an idea that won the $25,000 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, and awarded Robertson the title, “America’s Top Young Scientist.”
The problem with sandbags is that they’re heavy and hard to transport. Robertson’s bag contains salt and an expandable polymer instead of sand. When it’s dry, the bag is lightweight (about 1-2 pounds). When it gets wet, the bag expands and becomes denser than seawater. With an interlocking fastener system, which the youthful designer also developed, it is possible to keep multiple bags in place while the polymer expands, so water doesn’t seep through the gaps.
Robertson’s sandbag was developed with the guidance of a 3M mentor. A provisional patent has been applied for.