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MSE graduate student’s invention shortlisted in JDA 2021

Article by: Kandhalvi M. Asaali and Alexandra Isabelle G. Delavin

Graphics by: Cristelle S. Corpuz

Out of 84 national finalists, Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) graduate student Mark Kennedy E. Bantugon’s Pili Seal invention was included in the Top 20 shortlist of this year’s James Dyson Award (JDA) which was announced last October 13.

Before joining the international design competition wherein university-level students presented problem-solving ideas, Bantugon was also hailed as the champion of the Cardinal Challenge 2021: Mapúa Design and Innovation Competition with the same invention last May. In this competition, he met fellow Mapúan and the first-ever winner of the global sustainability prize at the JDA last year, Carvey Ehren Maigue, who invented AuREUS, a device made from vegetable and fruit waste that absorbs and converts ultraviolet rays into renewable energy. This encounter with Maigue, who was also a judge in the competition, further inspired him to join the JDA as they shared similar advocacies towards promoting sustainability through reusing material waste.

When he was still an undergraduate aeronautical engineering student, Bantugon noticed that the sealants used by aviation companies to prevent fuel leakages in aircrafts were often expensive and released toxic fumes. Because of this, he was inspired to invent a safe and non-toxic alternative. Having grown up around plants and animals in the farm as well as seeing waste materials, he considered using the waste of pili tree resin for his two-component sealant. “Doon [in the farm] din ako nagkaroon ng establishment and foundation, not only in education, but also in experimental-based research na aligned sa agriculture and sustainability,” he added.

When he was formulating the product, Bantugon separated the base material and hardener rather than creating one-component sealants. He shared that by doing so, there would be reduced waste as one-component sealants usually harden when left unused.

While unconventional, the Pili Seal underwent 20 different standard tests to ensure a competitive performance against commercial aviation sealants. Based on their initial assessment, this natural sealant is around one-fourteenth the price of traditional and internationally sourced aviation sealants.

When asked about his struggles during the creation of the Pili Seal, the inventor said that since this was a pioneering study in the field of the aviation industry, it was challenging to find similar studies. He also had his doubts that his chosen path may not be fit for him as he was also faced with rejections during that time.

Regardless, he shared that being the National Winner of the JDA and representing the Philippines for the competition’s international leg was both unimaginable and pressuring. However, he saw it as a blessing and a breakthrough for his Pili Seal invention as it opened a door of opportunities for him. “Nabigyan ako ng platform to share my intention, message, and advocacy of my invention na specific waste materials can give new function and role to our community,” he stated.

The Mapúan graduate student also expressed his gratitude for being accepted as a Department of Science and Technology scholar at the University. Moreover, he shared that he was able to further study the sealant’s application in other industry sectors through the help of his Mapúan professors.

Furthermore, as the National Winner and one of the Top 20 finalists of the competition, he plans to use this invention as a gateway to pioneer a manufacturing company of resin-based aviation sealant in the Philippines and generate income opportunities for local Filipino farmers through the plantation of Pili trees and upcycling resin waste.

Bantugon is set to move on to the final round of the competition where the international winner and sustainability winner will be announced on November 17.

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