If Thomas Edison were alive he would have been clapping and happily chatting with the contestants at the 2nd annual Thomas Edison Invention Challenge, held on April 22nd at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Sponsored by the Edison Innovation Foundation, and supported by local organizations, this event brings student teams out to compete with inventions designed to address the application of solar and alternate energy technologies. Excited, and a bit nervous, students from middle to high school happily explained their inventions and ideas for a cleaner world. A battery of judges from the engineering and scientific community visited each display to chat with student teams and evaluate their concepts.
Taking top honors this year was High Point Regional High School with a car exhaust charger design. Using a wind turbine as inspiration, students designed a working model of a miniature wind turbine located in a car exhaust system to spin a rotary generator to make electricity for use on-board a vehicle, or to charge batteries in a hybrid vehicle. Nicely designed and displayed, this high school student team effort showed the complete engineering process. An informative tri-fold newsletter accompanied the interesting display.
Second place also went to High Point Regional with a fascinating way to add alternate energy applications to the Lincoln Tunnel [which connects NJ and NYC]. A student team used solar panels and LED lights to provide an alternative to the energy intensive lighting now used in the tunnel.
Taking third place were three students from Heritage Middle School for their design of a methane powered portable toilet that captured the gases given off from the toilet’s fecal waste to generate electricity for low level lighting inside the structure.
The Best Invention Notebook award went to a team from The Marine Academy of Science and Technology that carefully documented their design of a hand-held, solar-powered fan. Keeping accurate invention notebooks and demonstrating good communication skills is an often forgotten aspect of inventing. Clearly this team did a great job, and kudos to their teacher-mentor for emphasizing such important skills!
An honorable mention award was given to New Providence High School for a team that designed and modeled a pest guard energized from alternate energy sources. Such a system would keep animal pests like deer and smaller wild animals from foraging in family gardens and ornamentals.
Apparent from all the team entries, students had a profound sense of making their inventions appropriate to the market. Some of these entries were just a few steps away from being commercially possible. One enthusiastic fashion design team envisioned solar-powered clothing! All teams were encouraged to continue developing their ideas and never be afraid to try new things, as Mr. Edison certainly would have encouraged. Proclaiming all the participants “budding young Thomas Edison’s”, the event was closed…. to await a new round of exciting invention competition next year!
“I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc. Photographs by Wonderpug Graphics
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