American Creative Ingenuity Refuses To Die!
Just in time for the New Year comes news that there is still reason for hope in America:
A San Diego-area teen who used scavenged parts to invent a gyroscopic generator to turn ocean waves into electricity won the top $100,000 individual scholarship Monday in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology. The national honors were announced at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. The sixth annual high school science research competition awarded $624,000 in scholarships at the national and six regional events.
Working in his garage for more than a year, Aaron Goldin, a senior at San Dieguito High in Encinitas, used parts from a reel-to-reel tape recorder, an answering machine and a computer printer to create his environmentally friendly Gyro-Gen. Goldin, 17, spun off the idea from an ocean-wave-powered vehicle, a concept pondered by engineers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he volunteered. In trying to use a gyroscope's motion resistance to work against a wave, he realized it might be possible to use it to generate power.
"I had no idea I'd end up here," Goldin said Monday. "You just don't expect to be the one. That was an amazing surprise. I almost cried when I found out."
And the world cries out for your talents, Aaron!
During a two-year period using the scavenged parts, Aaron built his device, which can convert ocean energy into electricity in a method that doesn't harm the environment. His entry was narrowed down from 1,250 in the competition sponsored by Siemens Foundation, an extension of the international telecommunications and engineering conglomerate.
The Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology has been held for six years to foster interest in science among high school students. From the initial entries, one individual and one team winner were chosen from six regions to compete in Washington over the weekend. The winners in each category traveled to New York yesterday and will ring the New York Stock Exchange's closing bell today.
"Wow, my heart just skipped a beat when I found out I had won," Aaron said yesterday from Washington, D.C., in between interviews with CNN, NPR and The New York Times. "When I started working on this out of my garage, I had no idea this would even be part of a competition. Coming from wondering if this thing would even work to here in such a short time span is kind of amazing."
Aaron, 17, is glad his parents will no longer be burdened with college tuition, But more important, he hopes his invention sparks research in environmentally healthy energy sources.
More than likely, because his invention threatens the BFEE/PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse Plan to Plunder and Pilfer while Pandering to the Pampered Paragons of Profit and Purveying the Paltry Palaver of Peace Promoted by Self-appointed Panjandrums to a Passive and Pliant Public as a Palliative for problems, his invention will be bought up, or his patent rights buried under tons of legal challenges, and thus will never again see the light of day.
That's my optimistic view. But at least Aaron has the right idea.
"It's not so important that this very design be used to create an alternative energy source," he said. "It's important that there are potential sources – that we have the ability to break from fossil fuels that are bad for the environment." Aaron is applying to patent his invention.
Lead judge Kathie Olsen, associate director for science for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said Aaron's project won the top prize because it used high-level physics and was timely, practical and creative. The former chief scientist for NASA said the national government has made it a priority to find an environmentally clean, renewable energy source. Seventy percent of the earth is covered by ocean, she said, so harnessing the power of the wave into electrical energy showed ingenuity. "The other thing that was really cool was that he built it in his garage out of old appliances," she said.
Aaron, who received the grand prize in the individual category, is the first local student to win this competition. He has previously won top prizes in the county, state and international science fairs. He plays the trombone and piano and composes music. He loves to read and plays computer video games for leisure.
Teachers at San Dieguito High School Academy said Aaron will go far. "In class, he set himself apart in that he was able to take a topic further on his own, especially on subjects that interested him like oceanography," said Russ Davidson, Aaron's former Advanced Placement chemistry teacher. "When we talked about the properties of salt, he applied that to some of the research he'd been doing on his own about the ocean and its environment."
Aaron is not sure which college he'll attend, although he is applying to some University of California schools. He hopes to become a college research professor in physics or engineering. His father, an engineer, was by his side when he won.
His Mother Should Know!
His mother listened to Aaron in broadcast media interviews from her Encinitas home. "If a kid tinkering in his garage can come up with something like this, just think what other Americans can do," she said.
And that's the source of hope that I still have, that there are thousands more Aarons out there - even in Red MORE-ca - who will rise above the captivity of the corporatocracy and lead the world to a brighter and more sustainable future.
Others see things similarly:
"Now more than ever it is vital that we foster the next generation of science and technology innovators to maintain America's leadership in the global economy," said Thomas N. McCausland, chairman of the board of the Siemens Foundation.
The Siemens Foundation launched the annual Siemens Westinghouse Competition in 1998 to recognize America's best and brightest students in math, science and technology. The national finals were judged by a panel of prominent scientists and mathematicians headed by lead judge Dr. Kathie L. Olsen, Associate Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, and the former Chief Scientist at NASA. "It's an honor to judge such a prestigious competition and a pleasure to be a part of recognizing our nation's best and brightest. I am particularly pleased that the competition awards both individual and team efforts, recognizing the importance of collaboration and teamwork in advancing science and mathematics today," said Dr. Olsen. "On behalf of all the judges, I congratulate these outstanding young scientists and mathematicians on their remarkable achievements."
The Winning Projects
Aaron Goldin's winning project is entitled "Autonomous Gyroscopic Ocean- Wave Powered Generator: Invention of a New Energy Conversion Technology." Mr. Goldin created his gyroscope prototypes in his garage, scavenging an old tape recorder, answering machine, and other household appliances for parts.
"Aaron Goldin created the Gyro-Gen concept for extracting power from ocean waves by combining his love of gyroscopes and oceanography," said judge Dr. Richard Miles, Professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University. "He has taken an innovative application of gyroscopic principles and turned it into a reality, demonstrating great independence and originality. With further development, his concept may be scalable to large off-shore power generation as a replacement for fossil fuel power plants."
Mr. Goldin, who recently turned 17 years old, has already won numerous awards, including the Grand Award for Engineering at 2004 Intel ISEF, an award from the US Coast Guard, and first place for Electronics and Electricity at the 2004 California State Science Fair. He is also an accomplished musician and composer. Michael Goldin, his father, and Leslie Gushwa, his science teacher, mentored Mr. Goldin in his research.
In their team project, Lucie Guo and Xianlin Li examined the effect of DNA methylation, a natural gene silencing process, on breast cancer. The students demonstrated that breast cancer cell lines exhibit a specific pattern of silencing in the DNA of a particular tumor-suppressor gene. The methylation sites in this gene present potential new biomarkers for methods of early detection and treatment of breast cancer. "Ms. Guo and Ms. Li have excelled at the scientific process, in the depth of their knowledge and the sophistication of their thinking, executing their experiments with great care, creativity and skill," said judge Dr. Victor Ambros, Professor of Genetics, Dartmouth Medical School.
Ms. Guo, 17, joined a breast cancer research lab during a summer mentorship and became interested in exploring the genetic causes of cancer. Fluent in Mandarin, she is production manager of her school literary magazine, an editor of her school newspaper, and a senior class representative in student government. She enjoys playing the piano, painting, running, dance, and creative writing. Ms. Guo plans to study biology, biochemistry, biophysics and biomedical engineering in college.
Ms. Li, 17, is also fluent in Mandarin. She is co-captain of Envirothon and Science Olympiad, where she has won several awards. Ms. Li spends her free time volunteering at local libraries and museums, reading, traveling and watching sports. She aspires to be a cardiac surgeon and history teacher.
The other national winners of the 2004-05 Siemens Westinghouse Competition were:
* $50,000 scholarship -- Po-Ling Loh, Madison, WI
* $40,000 scholarship -- Samir Zaidi, Tarrytown, NY
* $30,000 scholarship -- Kevin Claytor, Los Alamos, NM
* $20,000 scholarship -- Bhaskar Mookerji, Durham, NC
* $10,000 scholarship -- Morgan MacLeod, Cumberland, ME
* $50,000 scholarship -- Jessica Fields, Jericho, NY, and Taylor Bernheim, New York, NY
* $40,000 scholarship -- Steven Frehn and Andrew Deagon, Palmdale, CA
* $30,000 scholarship -- Yisrael Herzberg and Yonatan Schwab, Lawrence, NY
* $20,000 scholarship -- Allyson Ho, Sugar Land, TX, and Alex Thachara, Old Westbury, NY
* $10,000 scholarship -- Nicole Pranke, Golden Valley, MN, and Ashley Fry, Dix Hills, NY
Read those names again - Some are likely Jews, some likely Muslim, some Asian - Hindu and Buddhist, some Anglo Christians - But all living in America. If we could just get rid of the BFEE/PNAC Petroleum Pirate Posse and let these brilliant young people have the tools they need to continue the vital work they've started!
There is historical precedent for this proposal of mine. George Westinghouse spent prodigious sums supporting the work of scientists and inventors Nikola Tesla among many others, even including Thomas Edison for a while. Andrew Carnagie spent much of his fortune donating libraries where many of yesterday's precocious kids had the books to read to stimulate their imaginations into such inventive creativity. They both spent far more money - even in terms of unadjusted-for-inflation dollars - than many of today's Toppers combined.
But such a thing seems to be an anachronism today. Most corporate sponsorships are not so munificent as Siemen's contributions, and I am heartened that Siemens still takes this financing of the future seriously even if much more is needed.
The Siemens Westinghouse Competition
The Siemens Westinghouse Competition is a signature program of the New Jersey-based Siemens Foundation, which distributes more than $1 million in scholarships, awards and grants annually. 1,213 students entered the 2004-05 competition, a 24% increase over the 2003-04 competition.
Entries are judged at the regional level by esteemed scientists and faculty from six leading research universities, which also host the regional competitions: Carnegie Mellon University (Middle States), University of Notre Dame (Midwest), University of California, Berkeley (West), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (New England), Georgia Institute of Technology (South), and The University of Texas at Austin (Southwest).
The Siemens Foundation
The Siemens Foundation is dedicated to providing scholarships and increasing access to higher education for gifted students in science, mathematics and technology-related disciplines. Established in 1998 to promote and support educational activities, the Siemens Foundation recognizes and supports America's most promising science and mathematics students and teachers, as well as schools that are doing the most to promote education in the core sciences. The Foundation's mission is based on the culture of innovation, research and educational support that is the hallmark of Siemens' U.S. operating companies and its parent company, Siemens AG. For more information, visit http://www.siemens-foundation.org/.
I'll take what I can get on this, hoping that other corporations will begin again to see the longer-term picture and shell out some of the fantastic sums they have been accumulating. Imagine if Halliburton and Enron were to publicly atone for their criminal excesses through such scholarship funding!
We can always hope.
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