Innovative Minds: Lam Le

Oak Grove Lutheran School | 8th grade grade | 13 years old

Fish flakes from plastic

About the Idea

Every day approximately 1369 tons of styrofoam are buried in U.S Landfills. Thirty percent of the world’s landfills are styrofoam. Styrene is classified as a carcinogen by the EPA and yet we still use it every day. Used Styrofoam cannot be recycled into new styrofoam. However, the larvae of certain darkling beetles(mealworms, super worms) can eat styrofoam.

Why did you enter the 3M Young Scientist Challenge?

The Young Scientist Challenge allowed me to share my ideas with a larger audience. I experimented with superworms for fun, feeding them styrofoam and using them as feed. The Young Scientist Challenge Inspired me, to the idea that anybody, young or old, can do science.

What is your favorite invention of the last 100 years, and why?

My favorite invention is the formicarium(ant farm). The first ant farm was patented by Frank Austin. Formicariums are ingenious, they give you a clear view inside an ant colony. You can see the brood and all the work done beneath the soil. Watching a single queen ant build her colony inspires me and shows me the true beauty of nature, a single mother building an empire right under our noses. Formicariums give me the power to do so.

In 15 years I hope to be...

In 15 years, I hope to be an entomologist studying insects. I hope to research ants, mealworms, and bees. I will conduct research on colony collapse disorder, superworms eating polystyrene, and how to eradicate invasive ants. Additionally, I would like to research land and pesticide use. Insect populations are reaching near apocalypse. Without them, our crops are doomed. Insects have captivated me ever since I was a child, I hope to spend the rest of my life with them (not that I have a choice really).

“The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.”