It was a two-way learning experience on Saturday, March 3, for twelve ND Energy student volunteers and the middle and high school students who participated as judges and contestants at the annual Northern Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair (NIRSEF). “I didn’t know anything about this topic when I was their age,” was a common reaction from the undergraduates. As is often the case, the projects were so impressive that there was a robust discussion about who should win the solar-powered battery packs awarded as prizes.
Benjamin Pamachena and Jacob Dixon from John Young Middle School in Mishawaka received the middle school award for their project “One Man’s Junk Is another Man’s Insulation.” While on a class trip to an RV company, the two noticed that a significant amount of insulation was being thrown away during the construction of the motorhomes and trailers. They created a model to compare the R-value of the wasted insulation with cellulose, fiberglass, Styrofoam, and siding insulation. The judges were impressed with the young scientists’ thoroughness, the originality of the idea, and its connection to a problem right in their own backyard.
Alek Wujcikowski, a senior from Elkhart Memorial High School, won the high school award for his cutting edge project “The Application of an Ion Engine for Space Exploration” that explored the use of an ion engine for long range travel in the vacuum of space. Alek is attempting to improve on NASA’s ionic engine design by using electrostatics instead of magnetism. Although he was disappointed with the force output he’s generated thus far, he shared ideas of ways to improve the design.
ND Energy is appreciative of the Student Energy Board members and Energy Studies minors who volunteered to serve as judges for this annual competition held in Notre Dame’s Stepan Center. They were Erika Kim, Cameron Gorsak, Alex Baumann, Michael Kay, Breanna Belz, Kelly Moran, Emily Black, Francie Fink, Rory Burke, Jake Miyazaki, Matt Chamberlain, and Cristian Lagunas.
ND Energy is a University Research Center whose mission is to build a better world by creating new energy technologies and systems and educating individuals to help solve the most critical energy challenges facing our world today. For more information, visit the ND Energy website at energy.nd.edu or contact Barbara Villarosa, Business and Communications Program Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-631-4776