2013 Bay Area Science Fair Awards

Congratulations to Chase King, Jonathan Shaw, and Kelby Kramer.

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.

Congratulations to our 2013 winners. They were honored at an Awards Dinner at the PEC in May.

Hot or Cold Insulators. Can You Keep Your Cool Naturally? Chase King, St. Marks School, Corte Madera. Grade 7

Photograph of hot and cold insulators Science Fair entry

The purpose of my project was to find out whether readily available, recyclable, or natural materials found throughout the world, would be an efficient alternative for use as home insulation. My variables were dirt, cocoa bean hulls, rice hulls, coconut hulls, straw, plastic bottles, packing peanuts and denim. There were compared to the typical R-19 fiberglass insulation that is used in most buildings and homes, and also compared to having no insulation at all. A plywood box within a box was used to simulate a room with 3 ½” exterior wall space. The insulating materials were packed into the wall space and tested in both hot (oven) and cold (freezer) environments. A digital thermometer with a long probe was used to reach the center of the inside box for “room temperature” measurement. The time it took to raise and lower the room temperature inside the inner box was recorded for each material while exposed to extreme outside temperatures. The times were compared and graphed.

Dirt was proven to be the best overall insulator in both hot and cold environments of the materials used. In addition to having no insulation in your walls, the packing peanuts and plastic bottle provided the least amount of insulation, barely above air alone in your wall space.


The Effect of Temperature and Light Intensity on Solar Cell Voltage Output Jonathon Snow. Redwood High School. Grade 11

Photograph of Temperature and Light Intensity on Solar Cell Voltage Output Science Fair entry

This is an experiment on how important location-influenced factors affect solar power generation. Temperature and light intensity effects on solar cells were tested on a small scale to extrapolate the results to full scale solar paneling.

If the temperature of the solar cell increases, then solar cell voltage output will decrease linearly. If distance from the light source is increased, then voltage output will inverse-exponentially decrease in direct correlation with the inverse square law. Results supported the hypotheses. Statistically significant differences ( ANOVA) were found between all levels of IV. Temperature changes resulted in a fairly linear trend between IV treatments, 5% difference in output for each 10C change. For light intensity, there was an inverse exponential relationship , but less than a full inverse square.

Solar panels are most effective with greatest light intensity and coldest temperatures. Changes in light intensity affect solar panels less as location moves further away from the equator (greatest intensity), albeit less so than the theoretical inverse square law.


Water Current Energy: Angling for the Future Kelby Kramer. Cunha Intermediate School. Grade 8

Photograph of Water Current Energy Science Fair entry

The purpose for this project is to find what ocean turbine blade angle creates the most amount of power. My hypothesis is that a 45 degree blade angle will produce the most power regardless of water velocity.
Procedure: Fill turbine/pipe system with water. Take off cap to start water flow. Watch for the peak output. Record peak output on data table. Repeat steps for each of the different blade angles. Repeat steps for the second current speed.
My original hypothesis that a 45 degree angle would be optimal was incorrect. The optimal blade angle is either 15 degrees or 30 degrees depending on the velocity of the water flow. My data was inconclusive. The 30 degree blade was best at a slower water rate. I do not know if this is caused by my apparatus’s limitations (friction, etc) or if it is actually correct. Therefore the optimal blade angle may change depending on the water flow speed.