THINK 2013 Winners

The BioWheel

Jaeho Kim

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The world is a rapidly changing place where we the inhabitants do not pay attention to the damage done to the ocean. Eutrophication from fertilizer runoff has caused many dead zones around the world, and the BioWheel is an adequate solution to this pollution problem. The BioWheel is an improved version of the overlooked systems of algae scrubbers, which utilize microalgae in order to absorb excess nutrients from the water. It is a filtration system designed as a water wheel that contains farms of microalgae that absorb polluting nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous from the water. The BioWheel has several advantages over the conventional Algal Turf Scrubbers: it is more convenient allowing for easy removal of algae, more adhesive thanks to the interlocking weaving of microfiber mesh, and energy efficient as it is capable of creating its own electricity through the attached generator. The rotating motion of the BioWheel allows for evenly distributed aeration and exposure to sunlight as well as allowing passage of aquatic organisms. The BioWheel will be tested through the emulation of a polluted river, to prove its effectiveness in treating point-source pollution. An aquarium with powerheads will be the simulated polluted river, along with additives to spike nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus levels.

Jaeho: Ever since I was a boy, I have been interesting in creating things, both with Legos and on paper. An avid builder and artist, I immersed myself in many hobbies at a young age: I started playing cello, found my talent in drawing, and sustained my interests in science by reading books. Even when my environment changed when I moved to the U.S. in 2006, I held onto my interests. In middle school and high school, I continually exposed myself to new opportunities, such as student government, golf, and other clubs. Through academic teams such as Science Olympiad, Ocean Sciences Bowl, and Science Bowl, I strengthened my knowledge and love for the sciences, while discovering a new interest in the ocean and its unique creatures. In my spare time, I love to work on my aquarium, tinker with my Raspberry Pi, and volunteer at the Ocean Institute. Currently, I am a junior at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, CA.

Three-Dimensional Approach to Photovoltaic Cells

Andy Chan

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Solar energy is seen as a source of clean, alternative energy. However, costs of photovoltaic cells, or solar panels, are high. As a result, most commercial systems are costly and require complex equipment to manufacture and maintain, rendering PV cells an impractical source of sustainable energy in comparison to fossil fuels. In addition, hundreds of acres are needed to be set aside for solar farms increasing the overall costs since real estate is expensive. My proposition is to create a line of three-dimensional PV systems to maximize output efficiency while reducing the necessary footprint space needed and creating an aesthetic and consumer friendly PV system. I have already designed and built a few small scale models to prove the feasibility of this idea. With the combination of simplicity and practicality, I want to make solar energy affordable while injecting a sleek, modern look to PV cells in hopes of establishing solar technology into our lives.

Andy: I was born in Houston, and for as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed creating and making things. As an ambitious third grader, I had my first entrepreneurial experience when I designed, made, and sold paper airplanes to my classmates. Who knew airplanes made from paper could be such a hot item! I love almost anything that involves a physical activity. I am on the track (we won the district 4 × 400-meter relay in consecutive years), varsity football, and tennis teams. Music has been a vital part of my life. I play piano and guitar and have composed songs for multiple instruments. I have passion for writing as well. I have written short stories and poems and am currently worked on a novel. I founded a non-profit organization called the Visionaries and Inventors of Tomorrow. Within six months, VIT spread to other locations around the world, such as New York and Beijing. Currently, I am a senior at Cinco Ranch High School in Katy, TX.

The Tega: An Inexpensive and Small Solar-Thermoelectric Generator

George Geng and Preston Zhou

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The energy crisis today can be greatly mitigated with thermoelectric materials, which convert a temperature gradient from waste heat into an electric current. The goal of this project is to create a simple yet relatively cost-effective device which utilizes the sun's energy and a temperature difference between two materials of contrasting specific heat capacities to provide power throughout the day and night in developing countries. In our device, a thermoelectric panel would be sandwiched between two materials, one with a high specific heat capacity that is insulated within the ground and one that has a low specific heat that is exposed to and heated by concentrated sunlight. Water, which has a high specific heat, will remain at a relatively constant temperature beneath the ground. Since copper is inexpensive and has a low specific heat, a copper plate will heat up during the day and cool during the night above the surface. Our device, which was inspired by the relationship between the ocean and beach which causes the daily sea and land breezes, is inexpensive and would provide constant, reliable power in third world countries, especially in areas away from a stable and sustainable power source.

George: I am a junior now at Irvington High School in Fremont, CA. There, I am an officer in Science Club and Math Club and on the Science Bowl team. I became interested in thermoelectricity because of the energy crisis and because I found an article about it really cool. This inspired me to search for new thermoelectric materials. I have looked high and low for these materials, from filled skutterudites at Caltech to clathrate structures at UC Davis. I made two new compounds that have potential to be thermoelectric materials, but my search is not over. I also like math: I am taking college math classes, and I started a group that teaches competitive math to elementary school students. On weekends, I enjoy ice skating and working on mechanical engineering projects with a friend. Although there is a good chance that I will continue researching, I don't know exactly what I want to be. Directing a movie might be fun.

Preston: I am currently a sophomore at Irvington High School. I am really interested in nuclear physics and reactors, and I am keen on pursuing that field because they seem like one of cleaner and more effective energy solutions available. However, I believe they still need more advancements, research, and public awareness before they can become more sustainable and successful. My interest in physics stemmed from an eighth grade science teacher, Dr. Ricks, as well as the lectures of Richard Feynman. I enjoy reading good biographies in my free time, along with watching sci-fi movies and TV shows. I also like ice skating, bowling, and of course hanging out with my friends, especially George. I look forward to going to MIT for the THINK program and possibly going to MIT later in my life too.

Honorable Mentions

  • Development of an Artificial Neural Network to Optimize the Placement of Nanofiltration Membranes to Ameliorate Eutrophication
    Pooja Chandrashekar (sophomore from Potomac Falls, VA)
  • Compact Particle Accelerator
    Michael Nguyen (senior from Chantilly, VA) and Sumved Ravi (sophomore from Aldie, VA)
  • Seeds of Change: Designing a Novel Filtration System for Use in Impoverished Regions
    Meghan Shea (senior from West Chester, PA)


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