A grade 11 teenage girl, Ann Makosinski, of St. Michaels School of Victoria, has been chosen as one of only 15 students from around the globe to be named as a finalist in the Google Science Fair and she emerged as winner in the 15-16 age category.
Flashlight Gets Power from Your Hand
Ann’s invention is a flashlight that gets power from your hand, and it is hollow inside and runs on power generated by the heat of the hand of the user. Her idea beat out thousands of other students from over 120 countries who entered the contest with their ideas.
Ann, along with the other finalists, were at the Google campus in California last month, where a prize ceremony was held and the winners announced.
The winners were selected in 3 separate age categories , and Ann Makosinski, the winner of the Grand Prize received a vacation to the Galapagos Islands, as well as a generous $50,000 scholarship awarded by Google.
Interest in Science Has Paid Off
Ann has long held an interest for alternative energy and has been a regular participant in science fairs since around the sixth grade. She expresses interest in finding ways to channel surplus energy that is readily available to us but never taken advantage of and used.
Ann came up with her flashlight idea after doing research a few years ago on Peltier tiles. These tiles can produce electricity when they are heated on one side, while at the same time being cooled on the other side. Having used these tiles in experiments for a science project in her younger years, she once again thought about their potential use as a way to capture heat already being produced by the human body. After performing calculations, Makosinski discovered that a human hand produced enough energy to power an LED light that produced enough light that it could be used inside a flashlight.
Practice Makes Perfect
Although her calculations were correct, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some issues with her initial design. Testing showed that although enough light was produce, the voltage was too low to properly power the light. More research showed that some changes to the circuit design and help from transformers could assist in boosting the voltage.
Several attempts were made by Ann over several months, working to obtain enough voltage for the flashlight and she finally discovered the correct combination of circuit and transformer needed to produce adequate voltage.
Testing The Flashlights
Makosinski constructed two flashlight models, each with a slightly different Peltier tile and other electronics. She used an aluminum tube to transfer cooler air to one side of the tile, and a PVC tube to enclose the aluminum tube, yet still allow an opening for a hand to come into contact with the opposite side of the Peltier tile to produce the heat.
She experimented with the flashlights at various temperatures, and found that even in varied temperatures, her lights were providing a solid beam of light for approximately a 20 minute period of time.
Ann spent about $26 per flashlight, but if manufactured and sold at retailers, the price would drop significantly. Ann’s parent continue to encourage her love of science, and Ann has already signed a confidentiality agreement with a company she said she can’t name to expand her project.