AGI Presents Earth and Geoscience Award to Alternative Oil Spill Clean Up

June 20, 2017

How One Eleventh Grader is Leveraging Geoscience to Solve Oil Spills

Oil spills are one of the most iconic and reported-upon examples of environmental neglect seen today – and for good reason. Not only do oil spills produce immediate damage to communities and environmental ecoystems at large – they have lasting effects, often due to the arduous, underwhelming, and inefficient means of cleaning them up.

“Oil spills are a detriment to societies, environments, and economies at large,” Evan Smith, an eleventh grader from Cumming, Georgia, describes. “During his pitch at the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo, he describes how, from an early age, oil spills had captured his attention as a paramount problem that needed solving. “I remember, as a child, thinking to myself ‘why can’t we come together and solve once and for all this problem?’”

And that’s exactly what he did.

Introducing the Alternative Oil Spill Clean Up

Evan Smith’s Alternative Oil Spill Clean Up started with research. “I looked into current technologies and metholodogies for cleaning up oil spills and was disappointed. Skimmers are situational – the conditions have to be just perfect and that’s not how the world works. Burning the oil is dangerous, and so is introducing bacteria to eat the oil, because it’s introducing aggressive bacteria into a new environment.”

Instead, Evan focused on leveraging a basic substance to “soak up the oil.” After unsuccessfully working through several potential substances, like cotton, Evan landed on basalt. By introducing the basalt into a gravity-powered, funnel filtration system, Evan’s Oil Spill Clean Up tool can remove 91.5% of synthetic oil in water each use.

What’s better – once the basalt is used to its fullest extent, it can be recycled into concrete or a variety of other existing industrial applications, and up to 95% of the oil can be re-used.
Watch as Evan describes the ideation process, the various iterations of his invention, and pitches its application in the open market.

AGI Presents Alternative Oil Spill Clean Up with Earth and Geoscience Award

Since 1948, the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) has worked to enhance awareness of the geosciences by connecting Earth, science, and people through education, workforce development, policy, research assistance and convening stakeholders. For his innovation and dedication to the earth and world around us, AGI presented Evan Smith with the Earth and Geosciences award, which is presented to the inventor with the most innovative application of Earth and Geosciences in their invention. To learn more about AGI and its dedication to education, innovation, and geoscience, visit


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