2004 Bay Area Science Fair Awards

Morgan P. Flannery: Wind Power – Is Bigger Better? Do large, wide wind turbine blades generate more power than small, narrow blades?

My wind power research took me to the Altamont Pass wind “farm”. Most of the wind turbines seemed narrow. I thought wider blades should be able to “catch” more wind. My question with regard to wind power: Is bigger better? The purpose of my experiment: To show that large, wide blades will produce more electric energy; if I could prove that large, wide blades create more energy, the people who produce wind turbines may have a new design. Experimental method/procedures: I designed 5 different shapes of blades, in 3 different sizes for each shape, with 2 blades and 3 blades. Each blade was placed in 3 different distances from a hair dryer, as the “wind” source. I tested and retested each blade, using the hair dryer (cool setting), which was turned on high and then low “wind” strength. The “turbines” were attached to a volt meter, which showed the amount of electricity produced by each blade. I recorded my observations. Significant conclusions: The small, wide, 2-blade (and 3-blade) “wind turbines” produced more electrical energy. They twirled the faster. I believed this happened because they were light in weight and the wide blades caught a large amount of wind.

Nicholas Fung: Direct Solar Pool Heater

The Direct Solar Pool Heater (DSPH) is an invention to absorb solar energy and transfer heat to the swimming pool water. It is made of an opaque disk of black nylon fabric suspended below water. The purpose of the experiment was to test the effectiveness of the DSPH and to prove two hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that water with DSPH will warm up water faster and to a higher temperature than water without it. The second hypothesis is that the surface water will heat up more than the deep water. A bathtub filled with water was used to simulate the swimming pool and six floodlights were used to simulate the sun. Three miniature models of the DSPH were built to put in the bathtub. Four experiments, each lasting twelve hours, were performed for four scenarios (with light and with DSPH with light but no DSPH, no light but with DSPH, and no light and no DSPH). Two temperature probes connected to a Vernier LabPro and TI calculator were used to record water temperatures at two different water depths at 30-minute intervals. The results confirmed both hypotheses. The experiment with the DSPH yielded the highest temperature and the surface water heated up more than the deep water.

Elise C. Ongaro: Can Recycled Denim Blue Jean Be Effective Insulator for Your Home?

Insulation is very important in regulating the consistency of temperature in a house. There are various types of insulating materials used in home and building construction. Some insulation is more effective than others and some are more environmentally friendly. The purpose of this science fair project is to research and prove that recycled denim blue jeans can be an efficient insulating material in home and building construction. I tested and compared the recycled denim blue jeans with other types of insulation such as fiberglass, foam, cotton fiber, and polyurethane. The results clearly showed that recycled denim blue jean insulation proved to be one of the most effective insulations, as well as, being the most environmentally friendly of all the insulations. As the general public begins to realize its efficiency and its value to the environment, it will hopefully soon become the most popular insulation on the market.

Michael P. Zammuto: Geothermal Electricity

How does geothermal steam produce electricity? Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but changed to different forms. Because of my research, I believe that geothermal energy can be converted to mechanical energy and then to electrical energy.
To make a turbine generator, I connected a bolt to a nose hair trimmer. Next I put a screw through the wheel and attached a tube to the screw on the other side. The tube was then attached to nose hair trimmer. I connected the positive clamp of the voltage meter to the bolt and the negative clamp to the nose hair trimmer. I taped the generator to a spoon caddy holder and directed steam towards the turbine. I recorded my results.
I chose to do the experiment in this manner because the spinning of a turbine was the best example in my research for producing electricity. It seemed logical to heat water on the stove to get steam. I knew if I could get the turbine to spin, I could produce electricity. I would use the voltage meter to measure electricity.
In my experiment, the tea kettle did not spin the wheel or fans. The three fans spun with the pressure cooker. They spun faster the closer I held the turbines to the vent of the pressure cooker.
I learned and proved with my experiment that heat, steam pressure, distance from the source, and the type of turbine are all major contributing factors of geothermal electricity production. For example, steam from the tea kettle alone did not produce electricity. Also, the closer to the source and the better turbine design produced more electricity using the pressure cooker. This means that geothermal energy from the geysers, converted effectively, can easily generate electrical energy. It is a natural and valuable resource for the production of electricity. I hope in the future that geothermal will be used more than fossil fuel to produce electricity.