Nan­otech stu­dents headed to London

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Sokil dsokil@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @dan­sokil on Twit­ter

LANS­DALE >> Eight North Penn High School en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents will rep­re­sent their coun­try at an in­ter­na­tional tech­nol­ogy con­fer­ence in London next month.

And their ex­per­i­ments in en­hanced bat­ter­ies, green en­ergy, and wire­less elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion are just part of what stu­dents at North Penn’s En­gi­neer­ing Academy are work­ing on these days, ac­cord­ing to teacher Mike Boyer.

“We are the first school to rep­re­sent the United States at this in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence, and we’re so lucky to have this op­por­tu­nity,” said Boyer.

North Penn’s En­gi­neer­ing Academy pro­gram of­fers a five­course in­tro­duc­tion for stu­dents to learn the ba­sics of en­gi­neer­ing — and for the teams head­ing to London, much more than the ba­sics. A to­tal of nine teams

com­prised of 27 stu­dents pre­sented their projects to a panel of school ad­min­is­tra­tors last week, Boyer told the board, and the top three teams were cho­sen to at­tend the In­ter­na­tional Sci­ence Con­fer­ence at St. Paul’s School in London in March.

Team In Novo, com­pris­ing stu­dents James Drinkwa­ter and Jake Yoder, showed the board their re­sults so far in test­ing ad­vanced bat­tery sep­a­ra­tors — ma­te­ri­als used to sep­a­rate com­po­nents within bat­ter­ies that could in­crease their ef­fi­ciency.

“We want to rev­o­lu­tion­ize it. We want to take that bat­tery sep­a­ra­tor in the bat­tery and, in­stead of it wast­ing en­ergy on heat and any­thing

else, and de­te­ri­o­ra­tion while recharg­ing, we want to make it more durable, not over­heat, and we want to make sure that the power is more ef­fi­cient and more con­stant,” said Drinkwa­ter.

The team has tried sev­eral dif­fer­ent types of non­porous poly­mers meant to bet­ter reg­u­late the flow of power be­tween an­odes and cath­odes within bat­ter­ies, and now are look­ing into dif­fer­ent ways of pre­par­ing those ma­te­ri­als.

“We thought of a new idea, a new vari­able we could test, which is weav­ing the nanofibers,” said Yoder.

“Cur­rently, when you elec­tro spin, the nanofibers line up ran­domly, and the spa­ces in be­tween the nanofibers are also ran­dom, they’re in­con­sis­tent. So by weav­ing them, we could make the spa­ces in be­tween, the poros­ity, more

con­sis­tent,” he said.

Team Nano En­ergy Tech­nolo­gies, con­sist­ing of stu­dents An­thony Brigidi, Ja­son Ell­strom and TJ Sch­midt, told the school board how they plan to use nan­otech­nol­ogy to har­vest re­new­able en­ergy from weather, from tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­en­tials, and from sun­light. Piezo­elec­tric ma­te­ri­als can con­vert vi­bra­tions into en­ergy, Brigidi told the board, so so­lar shin­gles that are hit by rain­fall and vi­brate could be used to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity, even dur­ing rain.

“An­other way is ther­mo­elec­tric, and that har­vests by tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­en­tial. So in the sum­mer, it’s hot out­side, but you have the air con­di­tion­ing on in­side, so there’s a tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ence,” said Sch­midt.

The team has also in­ves­ti­gated pho­to­voltaic ma­te­ri­als, which are the pri­mary in­gre­di­ent in so­lar

cells, and showed the board a video of a so­lar cell kept in the shade, and then ex­posed to sun­light, and an at­tached volt­age me­ter jumped when the cell was ex­posed to sun­light.

“Our plan for London is to have all three ma­te­ri­als re­searched, so we still have to do piezo- and ther­mo­elec­tric, and by the end of the year, once we have all three down, we would like to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of how they har­vest elec­tric­ity,” Sch­midt said.

A third stu­dent team, NasTek, com­pris­ing of stu­dents Aaron Di­et­terich, Engy Khoshit, Scott Schrum and Noah Wendt, stud­ied trans­fers of wire­less en­ergy based on ex­per­i­ments by stu­dents at MIT.

“For all of us who have had an elec­tronic de­vice, the com­mon prob­lem is al­ways an un­nec­es­sary num­ber of wires that we al­ways

have ev­ery­where. We’re al­ways break­ing them, trip­ping over them, hav­ing to re­place them — and a so­lu­tion to this would be wire­less en­ergy,” said Wendt.

Us­ing os­cil­la­tors with coils at­tached to a power source and to an ob­ject they’re try­ing to power — in their test case, a light bulb — the team was able to trans­mit elec­tric­ity wire­lessly, and is now ex­per­i­ment­ing with adding coils and chang­ing their shapes.

“We proved that adding a third coil dou­bled the volt­age and the dis­tance. But what if we change the shape of the coil in the mid­dle? Would it in­crease or de­crease the volt­age?” Khoshit said.

Re­fin­ing those ex­per­i­ments, and iden­ti­fy­ing the re­sults, will be what stu­dents work on for the rest of the school year, and Boyer said the teams will present their re­sults in a se­ries of pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tions on stage at the high school to meet class re­quire­ments.

“These stu­dents are go­ing to be pre­sent­ing their re­search, com­pletely un­scripted, and with some pretty amaz­ing, cut­tingedge stuff that I can’t wait for you to see,” Boyer said.

“Here we are in Jan­uary. Wait un­til June.”

The North Penn Nan­otech team has started a Go Fund Me page with the goal of rais­ing $30,000 to cover the costs of their trip to London; to do­nate visit and search for “NPHS Nano Pre­sen­ta­tion in London.”


Stu­dents and in­struc­tor Mike Boyer from North Penn High School’s En­gi­neer­ing Academy spoke to the dis­trict’s school board about projects they will be dis­cussing at a sci­ence con­fer­ence in London in March. They are, from left, Noah Wendt, Engy Khoshit, Scott Schrum, Jake Yoder, in­struc­tor Boyer, James Drinkwa­ter, TJ Sch­midt, Ja­son Ell­strom and An­thony Brigidi.

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