2011 Bay Area Science Fair Awards

Congratulations to Rebecca Zheng, David Saadatnezhadi and Erica Yee.

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 2011 Winners. They will be honored at an Awards Dinner at the PEC in May.

"SmartMeter™ RF’s How Long?" - David Saadatnezhadi, 8th grade, St. Anselm School, San Anselmo

Photograph of the SmartMeter RF’s How Long? Science Fair Project

If you read the local news, it would be hard to miss the SmartMeter™ debate. May people are concerned that the meters are radiating continuously and therefore worried about exposure to radio frequencies. While the science is clear that the emissions are low, what if we could find out how often the meters emit? PG&E is installing new wireless meters that contain a one-watt radio transmitter that sends signals via a “mesh network” that works like a cellular phone network to update PG&E on consumption levels. My project should prove that the number of RF emissions used to send the data from SmartMeters™ do not transmit continuously.

“How to Kill a Watt" - Erica Yee, 8th grade, Chinese Christian School, San Leandro

Photograph of the How to Kill a Watt Science Fair project

The purpose of this experiment was to investigate ways to save electricity around the house and how much energy could be saved. Recently, energy conservation has been a universal term, but many still fail to carry it out. The actual means of saving energy though are relatively simple. Some common ways to save energy include switching to fluorescent light bulbs. In this test, the energy used by incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescents with about the same brightness were measure and compared... Then, the energy used for the RB, computer and laptop in “on” mode and “standby” mode were compared. The average energy saved using these three simple ways was 63.5%. Using compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent saves about 75% of electricity and putting a TV on standby instead of leaving it on saves around 95%. Leaving a computer in sleep mode instead of keeping it on conserves an estimated 39% of energy. A laptop in sleeping mode saves about 45% of the electricity that would be used if left on. When it comes to saving energy, even little changes can make a big difference for the future of the world.

“Energizing Alternatives” - Rebecca Zheng, 8th grade, Cunha Intermediate School, Half Moon Bay

Photograph of the Energizing Alternatives Science Fair project

The purpose of my experiment was to compare power generated from a solar cell and a wind turbine to determine which the better alternative for use in my community is. The experimental method involved designing and building the solar cell and wind turbine apparatuses collection current a voltage data for multiple days (with varied sun and wind conditions), analyzing the data, and finally drawing conclusions on which power source would be better given local sun and wind conditions.
Interestingly, the data illustrated that the voltage generated from the solar apparatus stayed consistent while the voltage generated from the wind turbine varied a lot with the wind speed. I learned that this is an important factor in power distribution and management.
Based solely on the data, wind power is the better alternative for Half Moon Bay due in large part to the number of hours per day that power can be generated and the fact that voltage and current increased with greater wind speed. However, when I factor in expert opinion from interviews I conducted, my conclusion is broader, indicating that a mix of alternative energy resources is actually optimal. This takes in to account economic factors and timing of typical energy consumption.