Students think up the next big green inventions
by Staff Writer
The environmental entrepreneurs of tomorrow are taking an early step toward their future careers through a competition that asks student to think up the next big green idea.
The Project for Innovation, Energy & Sustainability (PiES) announced the winners for its first annual Green Idea Factory Competition on April 14 as part of this year’s N.C. Science Festival, a statewide series of events that celebrates Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
PiES, a Davidson-based business incubator that fosters fledgling green business in the Lake Norman area, invited area high school students to come up with their own green ideas and inventions to present to local business, environmental and financial leaders.
“We not only want to look for new, innovative businesses, but we also want to reach out to the kids to get them thinking about new ideas that will get them to their future,” PiES executive director Kathleen Rose said. “People will have to make their own jobs in the future.”
Grand prize winner Zachary Kennedy, a freshman at Hough High School, came up with an idea for a solar composter, that uses solar heating to optimize the organic decomposition process. The machine would operate year round and prevent weeds and parasites from surviving in composted soil.
The composter uses photovoltaic cells – devices that convert light into energy – to keep the device operating when temperatures dip below the optimal range for composting.
“When the temperature gauge senses that the temperature is nearing the bottom of the optimal temperature range, the battery releases stored energy into the heating coils,” Zachary said in his written project report. “The heating coil heats up decomposing organic material, increasing the internal temperature” ensuring that the decomposition process never stops.
Other young inventors include second place Community School of Davidson winners, sophomores Austin Bruckner and Scott Krabath, who created a “unique prototype wind turbine, influenced by modern architecture that harnesses wind energy to create electricity,” and honorable mention winner David Deener, a junior from Woodlawn School who created a six-watt portable solar battery charger that provides clean, consistent and convenient renewable energy.
The contest’s “Most Popular Award,” voted upon by visitors to the April 14 event, went to Community School of Davidson students Ashley Ernest and Bekah Conner who created an eco-friendly trashcan that does not require trash bags. The devise would conserve oil needed to produce trash bags and help alleviate environmental problems created by discarded bags.
The six teams that participated in the competition were required to write a summary and create a poster about their idea or invention, as well as present their ideas to a panel of professional judges
“The contest challenged students to think about energy, efficiency and sustainability,” Rose said. “Green technology will influence their futures from both an educational and career standpoint.”
PiES will hold an awards ceremony for participants, their parents and teachers May 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. at The Business Center, 442 S. Main St., Davidson. Organizers will award scholarships, ranging from $1,500 to $5,000, to be paid to each winner’s college or university upon high school graduation.
Rose said that PiES plans to start next year’s contest earlier in the school year so that the awards ceremony lines up with the N.C. Science Festival. Rose and other contest organizers will spend time during the summer drumming up interest among area high school teachers. PiES will also need area businesses to serve as project mentors for next year’s participants and sponsors to help fund the scholarship prizes. This year’s sponsors included Lime Energy, The McIntosh Law Firm, Discovery Place, The Town of Davidson, Park Avenue Properties, Peoples Bank, State Farm Insurance, Daetwyler Clean Energy, Macon & Associates, Davidson PostNet and Fuel Pizza.
Teachers interested in helping their students participate in next year’s Green Idea Factory Competition may contact Rose at 704-896-0094.
2012 Green Idea Factory Contest Winners
• First place: Zachary Kennedy of Hough High School
• Second place: Austin Bruckner and Scott Krabath of Community School of Davidson
• Honorable Mention: David Keener of Woodlawn School
• Most Popular: Ashley Ernest and Bekah Conner of Community School of Davidson