Teen raises awareness about microplastics in oceans

Anna Du, a 17-year-old high school student, invented a device to detect dangerous microplastics in the ocean in hopes of raising awareness about the issue.
4:52 | 03/24/23

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Transcript for Teen raises awareness about microplastics in oceans
- Welcome back, everybody. It is Women's History Month, and we are celebrating the rising generation of young women sparking change. This morning, we're introducing you to 17-year-old Anna Du, a high school student who is raising awareness about the dangers of microplastics in our oceans and coming up with ways to help solve the problem. Take a look. ANNA DU: I was 11 when I first started working on my remotely operated vehicle. MICHAEL STRAHAN: A high-tech invention that detects microplastics in the water-- [WHIRRING] --built by a kid. ANNA DU: My ROV is designed to scan the ocean floor for microplastics to make the eventual cleanup effort much easier. MICHAEL STRAHAN: The creation inspired by a hobby. ANNA DU: I always loved going to the beach because I used to really love making sea glass jewelry. So when I found that a lot of the pieces were actually plastic particles, that really horrified me. MICHAEL STRAHAN: And so Anna Du got to work, spending over 500 hours building prototypes. Her goal-- to save the planet. ANNA DU: Microplastics are so harmful because they're a lot harder to clean up. Typically they come from larger pieces of plastics, like plastic bags or containers that have broken down. Some smaller animals might eat a little bit of plastics, and a larger animal might eat a lot of those smaller animals. And so eventually, as you go up the food chain, humans eat those animals. MICHAEL STRAHAN: Rallying around Anna's dream, her mom transformed their home. - This house is definitely her laboratory. We have a table in the middle of the living room, and it's full of her equipment and tools. - All systems are go. - She is pretty determined. MICHAEL STRAHAN: So determined that Anna, now 17, cold-called renowned members of the scientific community to support her research. - When you speak with kids the first few times, they want to solve some gigantic problem that seems almost unrealistic. But Anna really had the dedication. ED MORIARTY: She's evolved past me. It's just fun to watch and to see what she's been accomplishing through time. MICHAEL STRAHAN: And as time passes-- - As you can see over here-- MICHAEL STRAHAN: --Anna's goals grow bigger. ANNA DU: I want to inspire my generation to use science and technology as weapons that we can wield against these big world problems that'll affect all of us someday. I want to inspire little girls to always rise up to the occasion and to do whatever you can to pursue your dreams, no matter what other people tell you. - That is right. And Anna Du is here with us now. And welcome to GMA. Give her a welcome, everybody. Yeah, that's right. [APPLAUSE] Now, you brought your underwater ROV with you to the show today. Show us how it works. - Sure. So my ROV is designed to scan the ocean floor for microplastics. And so it has all these motors here. And this you can see-- [WHIRRING] - Got things everywhere. OK? - And this is designed to move it around on the ocean floor to look for these hot spots where microplastics are either most likely to accumulate in or where the most toxic plastics are, so we can really concentrate all of our cleanup efforts in the areas that need it the most. - And you are-- but in order to make this work, though, you had to develop this really cool technology that helps you detect the microplastics in the ocean. So how does that work? - Yeah. So this is a camera that I use in order to find the microplastics. And it's mostly looking for two things. It's looking for the unnatural colors that are most likely to be found on the plastics and that you might not really see in a natural ocean environment. So things like these bright green-- MICHAEL STRAHAN: Oh, wow. Look at that. ANNA DU: --or orange. And it's able to avoid a lot of marine creatures, like for example, you can see this shell over here, it's completely avoiding because it's designed to not look at these marine organisms and to only focus on the plastics. MICHAEL STRAHAN: Now, that's-- how can we know how you did that? But it's only focused-- only detects plastics? - Yes. - And we were just in Easter Island. We did a whole thing about microplastics in the ocean, how it's affecting our environment. So what you're doing here is very important for the future of everybody and everything. And I know, since she wants to go to MIT, I have a feeling that you're on-- you're on the path to get there. And the people at the educational game and toy company Educational Insights, they heard about what you're doing, and they really want to help support you in what you're doing. So they wanted to give you $1,500 to the Deep Plastics Initiative. - Oh my god. - So is that gonna help you? - Wow. MICHAEL STRAHAN: Wow? - I mean, I don't know what to say. MICHAEL STRAHAN: Gimme some. That's what you do. - Thank you so much. Wow. - Gimme a high-five. But Anna, what you're doing for microplastics in the environment, it really is amazing. We're gonna bring out the check. Come on in here, Sal. It's not exactly a check. Don't take it to the bank. They won't cash it. But we promise, you're gonna get this $1,500. Thank you for what you're doing. - Thank you so much. - And MIT, here's your future student right here. - Fingers crossed. - Fingers crossed. And adieu, everybody. Thank you so much, Anna.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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