Scarlett’s Superstars: Anna Du

By Anne Cissel

Kids like you can make a difference for wildlife and the environment. Meet some inspiring young heroes who have turned their love of animals into action! 



Family Photo

Anna Du, Trash Detector

A few years ago, 12-year-old Anna Du was looking for sea glass and pretty shells at the beach near her home in Massachusetts. But every time she stopped to pick up something colorful from the sand, she realized it was plastic trash!

Anna started reading about the problem of plastic in the ocean. She learned that many ocean animals have plastic in their bodies, and some even die from it. She wanted to help fix the problem. So she invented an underwater remotely operating vehicle (ROV) that uses artificial intelligence to detect even tiny bits of plastic—called microplastics—on the ocean floor!

At first, the invention was a simple, box-shaped machine. But Anna continued to tinker with it, adding legs, longer arms, and a system that helps keep it balanced as it moves around. The ROV uses sensors to spot the plastic. It also records information about the temperature and pressure of the water. This helps Anna map out the places where plastic sea junk is most likely to be found.

For now, the ROV is a prototype—a sort of practice machine. But Anna was a finalist in a contest called the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, which means she gets to work with scientists to keep improving the invention. And now she’s not only an inventor— she’s an author! Her first book, Microplastics and Me, came out in November 2019 and has already been translated into other languages.

Meet more kid superstars!


Do you have a story to share about helping wildlife and the environment? Email us at We love hearing everyone’s stories, but we are able to feature only a few of them. All submissions become the property of the National Wildlife Federation.

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