Bright sparks ready to light up US sci­ence fair

SA pupils take pi­o­neer­ing ideas to Amer­ica

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - SOYISO MALITI

THREE Cape Town pupils will be fly­ing the flag high at the In­tel In­ter­na­tional Sci­ence and En­gi­neer­ing Fair in Pitts­burgh, US, from to­mor­row.

Chase Newel from Pinelands High, Gabriele Gess from St Cyprian’s and Frank Smuts of Park­lands Sec­ondary Col­lege jet off this morn­ing to dis­play their ideas at the week-long fair, which be­gins to­mor­row.

They qual­i­fied via the Eskom Expo.

Newel’s gadget is a power bank that uses in­duc­tion coils to charge cell­phones. The power bank is tied to the user’s an­kle and it gen­er­ates power when you walk or run.

Its coils pro­duce elec­tric­ity with­out a con­nec­tion to the power grid.

When the user is walk­ing, the bat­tery charges up to 0.7% bat­tery power in 10 min­utes; when run­ning, it can charge up to 1.6% power in the same pe­riod.

His tar­get mar­ket in­cludes stu­dents and peo­ple liv­ing in ar­eas with­out elec­tric­ity. He is in the process of get­ting the power bank patented.

“I’ve worked on the idea for two years and this is its third pro­to­type. The power bank re­lies on move­ment in or­der to power it,” Newel said.

“I’ve been through the hard­ships of go­ing to a point where it didn’t work and hav­ing to re-eval­u­ate and re-ad­dress it.”

Newel, who is an A-stu­dent in sci­ence, added that his short and long-term goals were to im­prove the power bank’s ef­fi­ciency and make it less no­tice­able.

The power bank has a ca­ble that runs from the an­kle to your pocket or waist, where you have your phone. He said he is con­tem­plat­ing cre­at­ing a wire­less pro­to­type.

Gess’ re­search fo­cuses on de­ter­min­ing the avail­abil­ity of pollen sources on de­cid­u­ous fruits dur­ing the sum­mer.

“I feel like this re­search is im­por­tant be­cause this is a world­wide prob­lem which ev­ery­one has af­forded lit­tle at­ten­tion.”

She be­gan work­ing on her project in Jan­uary.

“I think it’s go­ing to ben­e­fit so­ci­ety be­cause this is gravely im­por­tant for food sources and food se­cu­rity.

“There is a prob­lem with Western Cape bees. They do not have enough pollen sources to keep them­selves in good con­di­tion be­tween De­cem­ber and March. I don’t be­lieve a so­lu­tion can be found to­mor­row – it will take some time.”

She con­ducted her re­search on a moun­tain in Piket-bo-berg.

Smuts’ idea fo­cuses on aero­dy­nam­ics.

He has de­signed a sys­tem that cal­cu­lates the den­sity of air­flows by mea­sur­ing how light is dis­torted when it passes through them. An ex­am­ple of this dis­tor­tion is the wob­bling in the air seen above a can­dle flame.

“These dis­tor­tions can be mea­sured by tak­ing pho­to­graphs of the air­flow against a sheet with a pat­tern of dots, and then used as in­put by a com­puter pro­gram that cal­cu­lates the cor­re­spond­ing den­sity of the air­flow.

“Thus, my set-up uses only a cam­era, a com­puter and a sheet of pa­per to cal­cu­late den­sity.

“The set-up is sim­ple and does not have to be placed in­side the air­flow be­ing mea­sured.”

He added: “The abil­ity to ac­cu­rately mea­sure air­flows is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of aero­dy­nam­ics and has many ap­pli­ca­tions in en­gi­neer­ing.”

The pro­gram he de­signed to cal­cu­late den­sity runs on a per­sonal com­puter.

In the fu­ture, he plans to re­write the pro­gram so it can run on mo­bile de­vices.

His am­bi­tion is to pub­lish his re­search in a sci­en­tific jour­nal.


Chase Newel from Pinelands High School has been se­lected to rep­re­sent South Africa at the In­tel In­ter­na­tional Sci­ence Fair to be held in Pits­burgh Penn­syl­va­nia, US, this month.

Frank Smuts

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