Hannah Herbst developed a low-cost renewable energy device for intercoastal waterways, using just $12 in materials.
A teenager from Boca Raton, Florida, just took home top honors in the 2015 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, receiving a $25,000 check for her creation, an ocean energy harvesting device for the developing world.
15-year old Hannah Herbst designed her "Ocean Energy Probe" using about $12 in materials, including a 3D-printed propeller, some PVC pipe, a pulley, and a hydroelectric generator, and deployed it into the Boca Raton Intracoastal Waterway, where incoming currents represent a lot of potentially-harvestable energy. Her design, a small-scale device, was able to produce just enough electricity to light some LED bulbs, but she says that if the design was scaled up, it could produce enough electricity to charge three car batteries in about an hour, which could then be used to power desalination pumps or medical devices, such as a blood centrifuge.
Here's her two-minute pitch, which she crams a lot of info into, so listen closely:
As one of the finalists in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, Herbst was paired with a mentor, 3M scientist Jeffrey Emslander, who worked with her virtually for about three months to refine her creation. According to Business Insider, she plans to keep working with Emslander to improve the Ocean Energy Probe so that it can eventually be deployed in developing countries, and aims to save most of her prize in a college fund.
While this top young scientist certainly deserves the spotlight, the other teen scientist finalists also had very impressive entries, which you can view here. These type of sponsored challenges, with private industry providing mentoring and cash prizes, may help drive interest and innovation in STEM education, which is a key element of enabling the next generation to have the tools to build a cleaner, greener, future for us all.