2010 Bay Area Science Fair Awards

Congratulations to Mira Partha, Krikor Andonian, Eric Bryan, and Roger Romani
Each year the Pacific Energy Center Staff looks forward to visiting the San Francisco Bay Area Science Fair to view all the student entries and select a few that represent creative work and whose subject matter relates to energy and energy conservation. We congratulate our 2010 Winners. They will be honored at an Awards Dinner at the PEC in May.

“Energy from Water and Wind” - Mira Partha, Challenger School Ardenwood, Newark 7th grade

Photograph of the Energy from Water and Wind Science Fair Project

Energy plays a vital role in today’s world. The demand for energy is growing while our fossil fuel supplies are rapidly diminishing; so we must find safe, inexpensive, non-polluting renewable, easily obtained alternate sources of energy to satisfy our energy needs. In my project, I constructed one devise that would generate electricity using the kinetic energy of either water or wind. A rotating drum with plastic blades is mounted on a spindle and forms a turbine. The turbine can be activated by either wind or water flow, channeled appropriately onto the blades. The turbine is coupled to an electric generator, which produces electricity. The electricity is used to power an LED that is connected to the output terminals of the generator. The experiment demonstrates that single machine can harness the kinetic energy of water or wind and use it to generate electricity. The device is 100% non-polluting and is flexible – it can be used to generate electricity from either wind or water. The machine was safe, inexpensive and easy to build. Such a machine can be improved and enlarged and electricity would be generated from energy from either water or wind.

“Is Brown the New Green?” - Eric Bryan, Kent Middle School, Kentfield, 8th grade

Photograph of the Is Brown the new Green  Science Fair project

In my experiment, I explored the microbial fuel cells (MFCs), devices that utilize the chemical reactions of the bacteria naturally found in mud to produce electricity and in some cases create new fresh water. I tested three types of mud to see which kind of mud would create more voltage when put in a microbial fuel cell. To do this, I built 6 microbial fuel cells, then filled them with mud from 3 different sources. I took data from each microbial fuel cell by measuring the voltage output. My results showed that creek mud created the most electricity but compost created less than topsoil. Some trends I found in the voltage output of the MFCs over time were the gradual increase in output and the difference between the output at the beginning of the day and the end of the day. This technology could be used greatly in many parts of the world. It would solve many problems with the energy crisis and it would also create a large amount of fresh water, which is also desperately needed right now. This technology would go great in a sewage plant.

“Insulation” - Krikor Andonian, KZV Armenian School, San Francisco 8th grade

Photograph of the Insulation Science Fair project

In this experiment I wanted to see which insulation would be the best in keeping in heat. I used fiberglass, foam, paper, foil, and cellulose board. I thought that fiberglass would do the best because it is the most common used insulation. So to get my results I built a mini-house, put a thermometer inside and heated the house up to ninety degrees using a hairdryer. Then I put the insulation on the top of the house (because heat rises) and saw how long for the temperature to drop back down to eighty-five degrees. The one with the longest time was the best. My results showed me that foam was the best at keeping in heat, then came the cellulose boards, then fiberglass, paper and foil. Fiberglass, paper and foil got really close data. My hypothesis did not support my data, because even though fiberglass is the most common type of insulation, it is not the best at keeping in heat. There are many things that make it so common, like the price, because fiberglass is very cheap

"A Thermo-Mechanical Sun Flower" - Roger Romani, Corte Madera School, Portola Valley, 8th grade

Photo of the Thermo-Mechanical Sunflower Science Fair project

Solar cells (photovoltaic panels) are in use residentially, in power plants, and in remoter off-grid locations. I decided to design methods to increase the power output of these solar cells for a lower cost than the cost of buying more cells. Specifically, I invented a solar tracker that is based on bimetallic coils (essentially springs) and is extremely simple and relatively inexpensive. It uses no electricity from the solar cells and has no gears, motors or any other complicated mechanical parts that could fail. I also designed reflectors (which only work with a tracker) that could boost power output by more than 220%. Combined, I calculated that these reflectors and trackers could increase power output by 3.8x.