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Blog: CarbonQuest X, WellSpring's XPRIZE team

May 21, 2024

XPRIZE is a non-profit organization that designs and hosts public competitions that encourage technological development for the benefit of humanity. The XPRIZE mission is to bring about these breakthroughs through incentivized competition. XPRIZE Carbon Renewal is one of four prize categories. Carbon Removal is aimed at tackling the biggest threat facing humanity - fighting climate change and rebalancing Earth’s carbon cycle. This groundbreaking competition, funded by Elon Musk and the Musk Foundation, offers the largest competition incentive in history.

Under the banner of CarbonQuest X, WellSpring teamed together with Valley Christian School in San Jose, California, calling the teams CarbonQuest X UAE and CarbonQuest X USA respectively. Their mission was clear: to extract carbon dioxide from seawater and establish a sustainable aquaponics garden.

Although not selected by the XPRIZE judging panel as finalists, CarbonQuest X was assured of a strong finalist submission. They were named one of the Top 100 Teams in the competition, meaning out of 1300 projects submitted, they got into the top 7%! Ours was also the only school entry to make into the Top 100!

The goal of XPRIZE Carbon Removal has never been about selecting a single winner, but rather to build a strong new industry of successful carbon removal companies who can collectively get to gigaton-scale. Making the Top 100 list recognizes that our school's team is a leading innovator in the space.

Meet the CarbonQuest X UAE team:

Project Manager: Dr. Candace Fowler
Science Team: Ryan Fowler (Grade 11), Reeves Manley (Grade 11)
Operations Team: Rae Lee (Grade 10), Abdallah Makhoul (Grade 10)
Engineering Team: Keyaan Mufshir (Grade 10), Grace Kline (Grade 9)

Carbon sequestering project

The team's Carbon Sequestering project comprises two main components:

  • Part A: Carbon removal and sequestration
    In this phase, the team focuses on extracting carbon from ocean water and sequestering it as magnesium carbonate. This compound is heat resistant and perfect for use in building materials like bricks.

  • Part B: Aquaponics garden
    We have constructed a greenhouse on campus where we will grow herbs such as basil, coriander, and parsley using aquaponics techniques.

The construction of the greenhouse was completed in stages, and the team is working on the planters for the aquaponics project. The team will plant the first seedlings soon, and we invite everyone to come and witness our progress.

By February 2025, the team aims to capture 1,000 tons of CO2 and produce 433 tons of magnesium carbonate. The long-term goal is to achieve 50 gigatons of CO2 capture by 2050. The financial benefits are sizable for the magnesium carbonate produced. However, the environmental advantages far outweigh the financial gains.

The aquaponics garden will serve as an outdoor classroom, supplying produce for our Grade 5 Consumer Sciences program. Combined with our recycling and composting initiatives, this will foster a culture of sustainability at WellSpring and beyond.

Plans for the aquaponics
garden which lays a
critical role in the carbon
capture experiments.

Four avenues of research

Team CarbonQuest X worked on the sequestration (separation and removal) of carbon dioxide (CO2) by setting up four distinct avenues of research:

  1. Electrolysis. Can CO2-saturated seawater be harnessed to affect the reduction and capture of carbon, ultimately yielding it in the form of magnesium carbonate?
  2. Aquaponics garden. What role can an aquaponics garden play in a carbon capture strategy?
  3. Mangrove expansion project. Would the deliberate expansion of mangrove ecosystems provide an effective way of absorbing and storing CO2?
  4. Recycling program. What potential does a comprehensive recycling program hold as a supplementary avenue for carbon reduction efforts?

Together, these trials represent their commitment to addressing and mitigating the impact of carbon emissions on a global scale.

A highlight for me wasn't any of the major things, like any of the presentations we did, or assembling the aquaponics system itself, but probably the weekly meetings we had.
My biggest challenge was time management, I had to fit in this project along with school work.
The experience was great, and although we didn't win any of the cash prizes I believe it still paid off.

Keyaan Mufshir, Grade 10

We are so inspired by the many ways our XPRIZE students have engaged with global climate issues and championed solutions to reduce carbon emissions. While working towards a sustainable future, they are also inspiring change within our school and wider community.

Recognized for excellence

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The WellSpring Private School is accredited by Cognia, the largest education improvement organization in the world—demonstrating our commitment to learners, teachers, leaders and communities.