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Hands on with the Projects at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2009


Every year the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) sponsored by Intel, celebrates the ideas and inventions of the some of the brightest young minds on the planet. This year ISEF took place in Reno, Nevada, and lucky for us who always have gadgets and technology on our minds, there were plenty of inspiring techie projects to check out. So many of the projects truly blew our minds.It was especially inspiring being able to meet the kids behind these projects. When you speak with each one of them and get to hear about what inspired them to work, and how they achieved their goals, you can hardly believe that you are talking to a teenager. Whether talking to a group of young scientists from Hong Kong or California, there was a common thread that unites all of them – these kids are not only extremely intelligent, but they’re also extremely passionate about what they’re doing and how their concept could help change the world into a better place. It was also wonderful to see how many of the finalists this year are young women with really innovative ideas. We think that it’s safe to say that science and engineering is no longer a male dominated field, both young men and women are going to be involved in making the scientific advances of the future that will change our lives. Here is a list of just some of the techie projects that stood out for us, and we think you’ll appreciate them too.
See Through Camera JammerKa Kuen Chan, Leung Ho Yi, Ma Yuk

Sheng Kung Hui Li Ping Secondary School, Hong Kong

It turns out that common gadgets like cameras, camcorders and cell phones with infrared light can easily be used to see through objects, kind of like Superman X-Ray vision style. So these three young women set out to develop a device to protect folks from the malicious use of such an ordinary device by criminals and voyeurs. They developed an ornament made of IR LEDS which ends up interfering with the infrared light of cameras, thus overexposing the image and causing it to be come blurred. To top it all off, the ornament is even kind of pretty and can easily be worn as a pendant.

Keyboard BatteryBledar Kazia

Ali Korca High school, Kavaja, Albania

Computers waste tons of energy. So isn’t it about time that they start giving back some energy? Bledar Kazia has come up with a way for people to generate energy just by typing on their keyboard. He discovered that if you replace some of the materials inside a regular keyboard, there is a way to create electrical currents using the magnetic field and your keyboard. That way, every-time you write an email and perform basic tasks, you’ll be generating electricity, and even better is the fact that whole process doesn’t require polluting the environment at all.

A Computer System to Turn Pages of a Virtual Book with Eye BlinksNicholas Hansen

Mont Harmon Junior High, Price, UT

Maybe we’re just extremely lazy, but the ability to turn the pages of a virtual book with the blink of an eye is very appealing to us. This brain computer interface system monitors the electrical activity on the forehead and causes a page to turn when it detects the electrical signal generated by an eye blink. The system is perfect for disabled people who have limited use of their hands, but like we said, it’s also appealing to anyone who is lazy. Can we expect to see this as a feature on the Kindle 3?

Intelligent HelmetThiago Alcides Jacobi

Fundacao Escola Tecnica Liberato Salzano Vieira da Cunha, Novo Hamburgo, Brasil

There is a good reason why you should always be wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle. But that still doesn’t stop people from not wearing a helmet. The Intelligent Helmet forces riders to wear a helmet or else their motorcycle will not start. No helmet – no ride. The helmet features a transmitter device which when activated, sends a signal to the receiver which is installed on the bike and enables the motor to start. This way, the driver’s safety is ensured whether they like it or not.

Run your Car on Water! Phase II: Modification and Development of an Innovative Device for Greater Fuel EfficiencyLauren Michelle Cardenas

Del Rio High School, Del Rio TX

The original Hydrogenator was a device designed to extract hydrogen from water for greater fuel efficiency while also improving a car’s mileage and emissions output. Using PVC pipe, Lauren created the Hydrogenator 2.0 and filled it with water. She then connected it to a regular car battery and after several tests she discovered that the mileage for the vehicle increased by almost 30% while connected to the Hydrogenator 2.0. In the “real world” we would imagine that plenty of people would run to buy a Hydrogenator 2.0 kit for their car if it would increase their mileage by up to 30% – that is plenty of gas money that could be saved! Especially for people who can afford to purchase a hybrid vehicle.

Personal Audio Disruption DeviceMatthew Taylor Stegall, Grant Matthew Edwards

HBS Academy, Charlotte, NC When I cross the street with my headphones on, I always make sure to mute my iPhone. But the reality is that most people don’t do that – and generally people are used to crossing the street while blaring tunes in their ears or being engaged in a heated conversation. This is a potentially deadly practice that pretty much everyone is guilty of, but most people don’t consider the risks and they just don’t realize how many accidents happen every year because someone simply couldn’t hear a warning honk from an automobile. That is where the Personal Audio Disruption Device comes in. The PADD automatically disrupts the output coming out of an personal audio system upon detection of a vehicle horn or siren. This is a technology we can potentially envision one day being available in all cell phones and MP3 players. Apple, are you listening?

The Ice Breaker: An Auxiliary Slow Speed Vehicular Braking SystemIan Charles Black

Homeschool, Williston, ND

Living in a town in North Dakota where winter temperatures often drop to 15 below, Ian set out to discover a more efficient vehicle breaking system for icey conditions after he had an incident where he went sliding off the road. He experimented with both plastic and aluminum materials to build his Auxiliary Slow Speed Vehicular Braking System which can easily be added on to any vehicle. In the end, the Aluminum version proved the most effective and actually helped improve the effective braking force of tested vehicles on icey, snowy and slippery conditions. Because the Auxiliary Slow Speed Vehicular Braking System can easily be added to any ordinary vehicle, we can only begin to imagine how valuable it would be for folks who live in cold climates.

Water Pollution Testing RobotRuipeng Liu, Liankan Ma, Linhai Xie

Changsha Yali High School, Changsha, China

This group of three young men from Changsha, China built a robot destined to trace and identify water contamination. The robot can also map the contaminated area and send out an alarm to warn of the bad water. The little robot can move through water at a speed of about 1 meter per second for up to 30 hours and it uses GPRS to wirelessly transmit its collected data data to a monitoring station. It is able to identify the contamination by sampling the water and analyzing the PH value.

Table Tennis Robot: Can a Programmable MCU Utilize Physics to Hit Specific Locations?Benjamin Allen Meeder

Manheim Township High School, Lancaster, PA

Benjamin was inspired to build this robot when he realized that he couldn’t afford to purchase his own table tennis robot because they are so pricey. So not only did he set out to make his own one using affordable materials, he also set out to make one that was better. His invention, the Table Tennis Robot is so accurate that it is able to hit specific locations on a tennis table with accuracy and precision. Consider this robot just another step in the road to full blown Centurions and Cylons.

Development of Wire Bending RobotJan Nezval

Stredni Odborna Skola Prumyskiva a Stredni Odborne Uciliste Strojirenske, Prostejov, Czech Replubic

By hook or by crook, Jan Nezva set out to improve the method used to create hooks made by Powder painting firms. Usually these hooks are made manually by humans. As a result they tend to not be identical, and they take an average of 31 seconds to bend in to shape. However, his Wire Bending Robot can make a hook in just 8 seconds – and all the hooks manufactured end up looking the same. Additionally, the robot is also capable of creating hooks with complex designs.

Multi-Touch Table: An Infrared-Based Touch Interface Designed for Collaborative Data ManipulationRitik Malhotra

Lynbrook High school, San Jose, CA

Watch out Microsoft, Ritik Malhotra gives Surface a run for its money. Ritik set out to invent a large multi-touch surface that was affordable enough for consumers, unlike Microsoft’s Surface displays that can cost upwards of 5 grand, his multi-touch screen has been constructed using an infrared-based detection system, an acrylic glass sheet, a web cam, and a connected laptop

Plasma Propulsion IIIJesse Kane Ellison

Bayfield High School, Bayfield, CO

Jesse’s project improves on the efficiency of the Pulsed Inductive Thruster which uses fast rising magnetic and electric fields to ionize and accelerate a fuel producing thrust. Ok, so we totally dont understand what that means either – what can we say, we aren’t Rocket Scientists – but Jesse could be one day! He has basically come out with a more efficient fuel/thrust system than the one NASA is currently using.

Stay Tuned for more ISEF coverage at Chip Chicklets