Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

High Schoolers Vie for 'Highest Science Honor' in America

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

High Schoolers Vie for 'Highest Science Honor' in America

Article excerpt

When he isn't studying, rehearsing on his cello, speaking in his native German, volunteering at the local library or training for the Baltimore marathon, David Linus Hamann is trying to figure out a way to more efficiently convert the sun's solar energy into electricity that can power our household appliances.

Even by the impractically busy standards of today's college- bound teen, that's an impressive use of downtime.

Impressive, too, are the other competitors in the Siemens Foundation's annual competition in math, science and technology. This weekend, 16 high school students from New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts convened at Carnegie Mellon University for one of the competition's regional final events, using Friday to set up and explaining their research to judges Saturday.

Mr. Hamann, a senior at Yorktown High School in New York, explained that he has been investigating ways to minimize battery usage in the delivery of solar power. One way to do that is to program nonpersonal appliances that use electricity cyclically -- such as refrigerators and water heaters -- to tap into the grid only when solar power is at its peak availability.

How to know when it's available? Mr. Hamann, along with his project mentor, built a camera and a computer program that could take photos of the sky and predict, three minutes into the future, whether the sun would be "available" or obscured by clouds.

Why work so hard to eliminate the batteries?

"Batteries have a lot of problems," chief among them cost, he said during his 12-minute presentation, which was then followed by a Q and A with competition judges. "It's better to use energy the instant it is created" rather than store it in a battery.

While Mr. Hamann was working on the electrical side of America's energy consumption problem, twins Shweta and Shilpa Iyer -- of Comsewogue High School on Long Island in New York -- have been working on a way to reduce our dependence on gasoline and petroleum- based fuels by making hydrogen fuel cells more commercially practical. …

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