Oct 16, 2015 | By Tess

It is always encouraging to see passionate young people take initiative and try to affect some sort of change in the world, especially when that change is for the betterment of humanity as well as the earth. With the global warming crisis becoming ever more serious, and the need for our use of renewable energy becoming crucially more important, one young student, 15 year old Hannah Herbst, decided to make a difference.

Herbst, a ninth grader from Boca Raton, Florida, was this year’s winner of the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and the recipient of a $25,000 cash prize for having designed a probe that could generate power and fresh water by harvesting it from ocean currents.

The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is a nationwide middle school science challenge in which students grades 5 to 8 are encouraged to make a short video proposing an innovative way to solve an everyday problem. From the applicants, 10 students were chosen as finalists and were offered the opportunity to participate in a summer-long mentorship program with 3M scientists to work on realizing their innovative ideas. At the end of the program, Herbst and the other nine finalists were able to present their projects at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul Minnesota, to a panel of judges, one of whom was Hakeem Oluseyi, an astrophysicist and the star of Science Channel’s Outrageous Acts of Science.

Herbst was inspired to make the energy probe by her pen pal from Ethiopia, who had explained to Herbst that she had little access to electricity. The project is intended to ultimately help developing countries in creating a sustainable energy source from harnessing ocean currents.

In the spirit of sustainability as well, Herbst constructed her energy probe from recycled materials and eco-friendly 3D printed plastics, the cost of the materials was only $12. The probe is made up of a 3D printed propeller, which Herbst designed with the help of her 3M mentor, Jeffrey Emslander, which is connected to a hydroelectric generator by pulley inside a plastic PVC pipe. The generator works to convert the movement of ocean currents into usable electricity.

The device was tested by Herbst in the Boca Raton Intracoastal Waterway, and worked successfully to power LED lights. Herbst reckons that if her project were made on a larger scale, it could generate enough energy to quickly charge at least three car batteries in under an hour, which would also be enough power to operate saltwater desalinization pumps, blood centrifuges, or even coastal beacons for ship navigation.

Though she has won the challenge and been named “America’s Top Young Scientist,” Herbst plans to keep developing her energy probe with the help of her 3M mentor with the hope of eventually bringing it to developing countries, like Ethiopia. Herbst also intends to share some of her winnings with her Ethiopian pen pal, as well as with her school to help construct a new building, the rest will go towards her college fund.

Bill Goodwyn, the president and CEO of Discovery Education says of the challenge, "The Young Scientist Challenge empowers students with the tools and experiences they need to apply science and their critical thinking skills to solve real-world problems…We congratulate Hannah Herbst and the rest of this year's finalists for their innovation and the inspiration they provide middle school students everywhere."

Hannah Herbst is truly an inspiration not only for other young people, but for people of any age as she has worked to effect some positive change within the world. We at 3Ders are looking forward to covering the story of the deployment of her 3D printed energy probe!



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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