2012 Bay Area Science Fair Awards

Congratulations to Neeka Mashouf, Mika Weissenberger and Eric Bryan.

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 and sustainability.

We congratulate our 2012 Winners. They will be honored at an Awards Dinner at the PEC in May.

"The Effect of Fresnel Lens Magnification on Solar Energy" Neeka Mashouf. Redwood High School. Grade 10

Photograph of fresnel Science Fair entry

Solar energy could likely be the solution to the daunting energy crisis we face today, but with the high cost and relatively low efficiency, some are skeptical. Imagine the advancements that could be achieved if this technology could be made more productive and affordable! My project tested whether a type of solar magnifier, known as a Fresnel lens, could optimize the energy produced by a solar cell and it’s energy application on an LED light, while keeping cell temperatures reasonable. I tested 2x, 3x, and 4x lenses, as well as no magnification as a control on a solar cell by measuring the watts, produced, cell temperature and brightness of the LED light. I hypothesized that the 3x lens would produce the optimal energy output and temperature, as well as yield the brightest light. My data supported this by showing that the 3x lens provided the highest power production of .495w (four times the control!) and brightest light at a tolerable temperature of 171.5 F. The results of my experiment prove that by using Fresnel lenses, energy production can be amplified and light can be successfully focused on a smaller active cell area, allowing solar technology to be more cost-effective and efficient.


"Harnessing the Power of Anaerobic Redox. The Effect of Temperature and Electrode Size on the Electrical Production and Growth Rate of the Electrical Production of a Microbial Fuel Cell" - Eric Bryan. Redwood High School Grade 10

Photograph of Anerobic Redox Science Fair project

In this experiment, microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology was explored. MFCs are devices that utilize the chemical reactions of bacterial respiration to create electricity. The purpose of the experiment was to find the best sizes of electrodes and best temperatures for the MFCs to operate with. To do this, three levels of temperature and three levels of electrode surface area were tested to try to optimize MFC efficiency. Nine fuel cells were built, each one with a different combination of the two variables, and each of them were tested by measuring voltage over 4 trials of 5 days each.

The results showed that increased temperature increased the voltage, up to 27C, and had no effect on the growth of the voltage. The combination of the variables had no effect on both the voltage and its growth rate. Based on the data from this experiment, for an optimized MFC, the fuel cell should be in an environment of 27C and have a large 40 ^2 electrode.

Microbial fuel cell technology can be very useful technology in the emerging renewable energy market.


“The Global and Local Burrito” - Mika Weissenberger. Cunha Intermediate School. Grade 8

Photograph of the local vs global burrito Science Fair project

For this project the carbon footprint and price of two burritos were compared.

One of the burritos had locally sourced ingredients from a local grocery store called New Leaf and the local Farmers Market, and the other burrito had ingredients sourced from Costco.

A list of ingredients in a typical burrito ( Tortilla, meat, beans, avocados, cheese, lettuce, sour cream) was put together and taken to New Leaf and the Farmers Market to record where the particular ingredient came from and how much it cost. Then the same table was taken to Costco with the same intent. It was relatively easy to find the place of production for the New Leaf/Farmers Market sourced ingredients, however for the Costco sourced ingredients only the distribution centers could be determined (even with extensive online searching which was performed later as well).

After the collection of the price and place of production/distribution of the ingredients, the distance it had traveled was determined by using Google Maps. The carbon footprint was then calculated using a) the method in which the ingredient was transported ( truck, plane, train), b)the distance that the ingredient traveled, and c) the weight of the ingredient. It was done with a formula developed by the Indiana University, who did a comparable experiment with the food in their cafeteria.

The conclusion was that the carbon footprint of the Costco burrito was 111x higher than the locally sourced burrito, and the locally sourced burrito was 2.2x more expensive.