|Lưu Hải Long and his parents pose at the SWIS 2018, an annual contest for students with start-up ideas organized by the Ministry of Education and Training. - Photos courtesy of Lưu Hải Minh|
HÀ NỘI — Lưu Hải Long has never been an outstanding student.
He’s just your average 11th grader at Phan Đình Phùng High School in Hà Nội.
When he told his teachers that he wanted to participate in the SWIS contest – an annual contest for students with start-up ideas organised by the Ministry of Education and Training – no one believed he would get anywhere.
Most national contests, including SWIS, attract gifted students from top-ranking high schools who are trained to compete.
Long’s only knowledge of start-ups came via television programmes and Youtube.
But he, together with four classmates, surprised both teachers and students. Their project to manufacture nano-rutin dietary supplements won first prize at SWIS 2018.
“I was mostly in disbelief to hear our project won first prize. Competing with outstanding contestants and winning the highest prize is such a milestone achievement for me,” Long said.
Formulating nano-sized rutin
The idea of making a dietary supplement to help prevent people suffering from strokes popped into Long’s head early last year when he witnessed his grandfather at risk of paralysis due to a stroke. He, together with Dương Xuân Anh, Nguyễn Đức Hiếu, Phạm Quang Huy and Bùi Hương Ly, started researching rutin as a possible means of preventing strokes.
In an introductory clip, the group said rutin was mostly extracted from hoè (sophora japonica), which grows widely in Thái Bình Province.
Flower buds and seed pods are an important source of rutin, which is used in the treatment of conditions characterised by increased capillary permeability and fragility.
In addition, rutin is also a natural molecule with anti-oxidative properties and free radical clean-up, so it has the potential to treat diseases like cancer, cardiovascular problems, diabetes and Parkinsons.
The problem was that rutin is tiny and doesn’t dissolve well.
Reducing the particle size of rutin to sub-micrometre scale was my solution for the problem, Ly said.
In September, the group sought support from teachers, biochemical specialists and laboratory equipment from the University of Science and Technology.
In just two months, they managed to formulate rutin particles of less than 50 nanometres.
In this form, the rutin is more easily digested and more effective.
Two months later, the group managed to make their first test products at the Trường Thọ Medical Factory in Nam Định Province. A kilogram of nano-sized rutin capsules was successfully produced. The products were on display at the contest’s exhibition last December.
After winning first prize, the group has transferred the research results to a private nanotechnology company in Hà Nội with the hope of contributing to the production of rutin-extracted supplements to protect and cure people from stroke.
Source of success
The success of Long and his classmates has been attributed to his father, PhD Lưu Hải Minh.
As an economic post-graduate in Brazil and chairman of a private nanotechnology company, Minh was able to support his son.
“It’s not easy for high school students to do everything by themselves. They need support with ideas and maps to find the right path to success,” he said.
|Long (front, right) and his group pose at a lab during the research on nano-sized rutin products for stroke patients.|
During the three months before the contest, Minh spent most of his time training the group on business acumen.
“This was the most challenging and tough part,” Minh said. “The contest required each team to build their own business models but the kids didn’t really know anything.”
Minh said he tried to summarise the most basic facts and share his experience through stories to make it easy for them.
“They’re young and smart with good memories. But after two months of lessons, they said to me their heads were going to explode,” Minh recalled.
With support from Minh as well as IT and software experts from the University of Foreign Trade and a company doing outsourcing for the Japanese market, the group chose their own path. They applied blockchain technology to develop an app for nano-rutin products on Android.
The target of the app was Grab drivers. Once downloading the app, Grab drivers act as mobile retailers to introduce the product to passengers, and receive a commission for each order.
“My father helped me a lot to prepare for the contest. A lot of his work was left unfinished because he was busy teaching me. I didn’t realise he was that busy,” Long said.
For Minh, the contest has brought him and his son more than the first prize.
“It was a good chance for my son to break free from his limitations, and it was good preparation for tougher challenges he will face in the future,” he said.
While Long is busy studying for the university entrance exam, Minh said he would support his son, being a friend and a companion to encourage him on whatever path he chose. — VNS