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2016

 

Young Engineers

 

Every generation of young engineers and innovators benefits from access to knowledge and experiences that weren't available to their predecessors. Technological advances and the patronage of various foundations are helping teens to leverage their abilities in advanced fields such as astrophysics, engineering, medicine and science to develop projects and innovations that are seemingly far beyond their years.

 

Here is a selection of promising young talents who have already established themselves as 'ones to watch' in their chosen fields.  Meet the engineering class of 2020...

 

Raymond Wang - Improving the way we fly

 

At the tender age of 17, Canadian Raymond Wang invented a system to improve air quality on planes and curb the transmission of infectious diseases.By using fin-shaped devices to redirect the airflow inside the cabins of commercial aircraft, Wang's invention creates virtual walls of air around each passenger, improving the availability of fresh air by as much as 190 per cent, and reducing the concentration of airborne germs by 55 times. It could also be easily and economically incorporated into the conventional models of existing airplanes. In 2015, Wang was awarded first place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fare, including a cash prize of $75,000.

 

Nicole Ticea - Detecting the early stages of HIV Infection

 

Another Canadian, 16-year old Nicole Ticea also made waves in 2015 when she was named an Intel Foundation Young Scientist winner, winning a cash prize of $50,000. Her innovation uses Isothermic Nucleic Acid Amplification to detect HIV infection near-instantaneously via a single drop of blood on a chip. This low-cost, easy to use device offers faster detection to millions of potential HIV carriers. Ticea subsequently founded her own company, received a US grant for $100,000 and continues to work on developing her technology at Stanford University.

 

Kajol Shelke and Sakshi Pandey - Reducing nutrient waste in fruit and vegetable dehydration


Both students of the North Mumbai Welfare Society High School in Ghatkopar, India, Kajol Shelke and Sakshi Pandey were inspired by their studies of the dehydration process while visiting a local Sapodilla farm. They noticed that the fumes emitted during dehydration were high in nutritive values, but appeared to be going to waste. Their argo-dehydrator is a modified microwave oven that captures moisture via a tube and then releases vapor from the fruits and vegetables to re-condense into a nutritive drink. Their smart thinking won them the bronze medal in engineering at the 2015 International Sustanable World Project Olympiad.

Colum McNally - Sustainable, cost-effective farming

Then an 18-year old cattle farmer from Northern Ireland, Colum McNally developed the 'Agrihammer', a hydraulic machine for both log splitting and fence building, as a sustainable and cost-effective way to prevent farming accidents. The device drills fence posts into the ground and chops wood, combining functions that would otherwise require two separate machines, and identifies danger zones to ensure that the user can only operate the device from a position of safety. McNally was named UK Young Engineer of the Year in 2015 and also won first prize at the National Science & Engineering Competition the same year.

 

Thanks to the opportunities provided by schools, dedicated teachers and supportive parents, plus competitions and funding, many of the prodigies of today could become the leaders of tomorrow. Could the next great innovation spring out of your classroom? Share your experiences of working with talented young inventors and engineers, or let us know about a future thought leader that you feel deserves more attention using the comments section below...

Student Engineering

 

Each year, engineering students on the cusp of graduation are tasked with the challenge of completing a senior design project before embarking on their journey into the “real world.” Although the specific requirements of the project vary among each engineering discipline, its fundamental goal is simple – create a design that benefits as many people as possible. For seniors, it is a chance to apply all they have learned during their college careers toward a single professional project.

 

In putting the techniques they've develop into practice, many students are able to use their senior design projects to explore original ideas that reflect their individual passions and interests. Here are three projects that gained attention for their inspiring approaches to solving real-world problems...

 

GrowBox

 

Growing plants is a notoriously time-consuming task. Constant attention is required to keep a plant alive and well. Farmers and gardeners, however, may now get some of that time back thanks to five electrical and computer engineering students from Boston University who created GrowBox, a fully automated, low-cost system for growing plants.

 

The GrowBox determines the exact amount of lights, water, nutrients and air needed to maximize a plant’s growth by using an image processor to monitor age and fruit count. An automatic controller function turns lights on and off to simulate day and night cycles a plant needs to survive. Users can stay up-to-date on a plant’s progress through an iOS app that sends push notifications for the plant’s stages of growth straight to their devices. As it's also capable of growing plants without soil, this hydroponic innovation showcases the potential for using engineering to make agriculture more flexible and efficient than ever before.

 

Aqua to Nicaragua

 

After spending a large part of his childhood in Managua, Nicaragua, Jesse van der Wees was well-acquainted with the hardships that affected so many living there. As a senior engineering student at Calvin College, van der Wees used his newfound skills to make an impact on those living in the country he once called home.

 

Titled “Agua to Nicaragua,” van Der Wees’ senior design project provides clean and dependable sources of drinking water tor rural communities. With the help of a solar panel, his team’s prototype design captures energy used to power an ultraviolet light that then purifies the water. The sustainable design can store enough energy to disinfect water for 100 people over five days. As water scarcity continues to threaten the well-being of millions around the world, innovative designs such as the one crafted by van der Wees and his team, are more important than ever to make clean water available to more people.

 

Turbox

 

While electricity is a critical component of modern society, 1.3 billion people still live without it. As many as 97 percent of those people reside in Africa and Asia. In response to this crisis, four engineering students at the University of Pennsylvania created Turbox, an inexpensive wind turbine in a box.

 

This lightweight device is able to generate electricity in remote locations, and can be assembled in less than 30 minutes without the use of tools. Turbox uses ample wind energy to generate 50 watt-hours of electricity, which can power two LED lightbulbs for the night, offering hope to families living in poverty without reliable access to electricity.

 

Have you been inspired by a student design idea brought to life? If you're a student or engineering graduate, what did you work on for your final project? Share your stories with us in the comments section below...

Northwestern UniversityThe United States boasts some of the most impressive research universities in the world, many of which have earned a reputation as hotbeds of innovation. Funding from private companies and federal agencies has helped entice thousands of engineers to these schools in an effort to uncover the manufacturing industry’s next breakthrough technology.

 

In 2014, Walmart awarded seven leading research and development institutions a total of $4 million to uncover new ideas and create jobs that would help boost U.S. manufacturing. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense launched a $150 million manufacturing innovation competition designed to encourage manufacturers, universities and non-profits to develop a manufacturing hub focused on revolutionary fibers and textile technologies.

 

With the ability to attract global innovators and the funding to support them, America’s research universities have been responsible for a number of exciting advancements in manufacturing. Here are three of them...

 

Purdue University, Indiana: Sinuous flow

Researchers at Purdue University have discovered sinuous flow, a type of metal deformation that could change the way manufacturers cut metals in the future. While using high-speed microphotography to analyze the results of cutting ductile metals, researchers found that metal forms thin folds instead of breaking off the same way each time.

 

Further testing revealed that since ink traditionally used to mark metals sticks very well, it can significantly suppress the folding behavior brought about by sinuous flow. As a result, applying the standard marking ink may reduce the amount of energy needed to cut metals by up to 50 percent. In addition to improving machining efficiency and the surface quality of metals, using less force will also limit costs by increasing the longevity of cutting tools.

 

Northwestern University & University of Illinois: Pop-up 3D printing

While the potential of 3D printing within the manufacturing industry has shown great promise, the innovative technology does have its shortcomings. Difficulty adapting to a wide variety of materials coupled with less-than-stellar speeds have limited the impact of 3D printing to date. Those constraints, however, may soon be a thing of the past thanks to researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

 

Inspired by a pop-up Christmas card sent to one of their team members, these researchers began to consider the idea of building 3D-printed objects from a flat surface. Implementing the same technique as the pop-up card, they placed small cuts and indentations in plastic objects that would “pop-up” when pushed together to form different shapes.

 

What makes the design so unique is that flat surfaces can be made quickly from just about any material available. This added flexibility may eventually lead to the creation of pop-up shelters that are shipped flat to natural disasters sites and then easily assembled upon arrival. There is also the possibility that the process could be used in tissue engineering to help mold new tissue to a specific shape and size.

 

University of Texas: Wearable health patches

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have invented a manufacturing method that can create disposable health-monitoring patches. Similar to a tattoo, these thin wearable devices collect data on a user’s vital signs, hydration level, muscle movement, temperature and even brain activity.

 

Although such devices have drawn interest from consumers eager to maintain a healthy lifestyle, an extensive and costly production process has severely reduced their chances for success. By cutting manufacturing time from several days to 20 minutes, the repeatable “cut-and-paste” method developed by researchers at UT Austin promises to boost those odds. The breakthrough process also does not require a clean room, wafers or advanced equipment, making production relatively inexpensive.

 

Have you worked or studied at a US research University? What were your impressions of the experience? Which institutes - in the USA or worldwide - do you think deserve more recognition for the research work they're currently doing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below...

Classroom Inventions

 

Most major innovations in technology and engineering are discovered by experts, reflecting with years of experience in their chosen field. However, every so often a student will surprise the world with an innovation that displays knowledge beyond their years. Many of these devices have gone on to have a significant impact on the engineering landscape, setting their creators on the path to celebrated careers in the process:

 

Thermoelectric Flashlight

After learning that students in developing countries often fail their classes due to a lack of adequate lighting for studying after daylight hours, 15-year old Ann Makosinski from British Columbia invented a thermoelectric flashlight to improve the situation. The Hollow Flashlight shines instantly to the touch by using the Peltier effect; a reaction that occurs when one side of a device is heated and the other is cooled. The user’s body heat has the ability to generate light for up to 20 minutes at a time, providing new opportunities for students to study after dark. Makosinski's award-winning device saw her featured in TIME Magazine's annual list of 30 people under 30 who are changing the world. She has also served as a global ambassador for the Uniqlo Fleece product line, which incorporates a similar technology.  Now 18, she is currently an arts student at the University of British Columbia.

 

Wearable Concussion Sensor

Ben Harvatine and Seth Berg, a pair of engineering students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology joined the wearable tech craze in 2014 by creating the Jolt Sensor, a wearable device that detects in real time when athletes have suffered from a concussion. The device attaches to any athletic headgear, including a helmet or headband, and vibrates when the athlete experiences a dangerous impact. The device instantly sends parents and coaches a notification to their smartphone so they can immediately evaluate an injured athlete. Once off the field, the athlete uses the smartphone to complete a cognitive test found on the Jolt app.

 

Cavity Fighting Chewing Gum

A group of five mathematics and engineering students from the University of Pennsylvania created a solution for widespread tooth decay in impoverished countries around the world, beginning in Bangalore, India. The team invented Sweet Bites Gum, a sweet chewing gum that contains xylitol, a natural sugar substitute proven to fight tooth decay and prevent bacteria growth. Although xylitol is an ingredient found in most chewing gums, Sweet Bites contains 20 times more xylitol than others, allowing users to fulfill their daily need by chewing one piece after every meal.

 

Carbon Dioxide Filter

At age 15, Param Jaggi of Plano, Texas invented a bioactive carbon dioxide filter to convert the exhaust from automobiles into oxygen and sugar through photosynthesis. The device, which can be plugged into a car’s muffler, removes nearly 89 percent of carbon dioxide from a car’s exhaust. Now a mechanical engineering, environmental sustainability and economics major at Vanderbilt University, Jaggi is the founder and CEO at Ecoviate, a company that produces sustainable technologies.

 

Water Purification Disc

PureMadi, a nonprofit and group of seven female students from the University of Virginia, is developing water purification discs to help the Venda region of Limpopo Province, South Africa get access to clean water. Their invention is a simple, ceramic disc infused with silver. Once placed in a glass of water, silver ions release an electrical charge that purifies it. The group has also partnered with the university to develop factories in South Africa that employ female potters and educate them on how to produce ceramic water filters.

 

Did you make your first creative steps in engineering in the classroom? Even if your first invention didn't put you on any magazine covers, share your stories about it in the comments section below.