Student Energy Board selects top energy-related projects at Northern Indiana Science and Engineering Fair

Nirsef 2019

Notre Dame was once again the site for this spring’s Northern Indiana Science and Engineering Fair (NIRSEF), showcasing the work of students from Elkhart, Fulton, Marshall, and St. Joseph counties. Middle and high school students who won first place at their home schools advanced to the March 2 event as hopefuls on their way to the finals in Indianapolis at the end of the month.

Fourteen members of ND Energy’s Student Energy Board (SEB) interviewed young researchers to determine their knowledge of energy and the originality of their questions and methods. Judging is an annual event for the Board and there are always difficult decisions to make since many of the projects are prize-worthy.

This year’s junior division winner was the seventh grade team of Evan Brenneman and Kyle Umbaugh from Lincoln Junior High School in the Plymouth Community School Corporation. Their project, “Wind Turbines,” was designed to determine how the size of turbine blades affected rotational speed. The construction of a mini-turbine using cardboard, the shaft of an arrow, and a sand-filled water bottle impressed the judges, as well as their ability to relate the project to actual turbines.

There were many competitive senior division projects, making the process of choosing a winner challenging. SEB members ultimately settled on John Adams High School senior Nicholas Good’s experiment, “Enhancing the Growth Rate of Algae Using Heat Recycled from a Computer Undergoing Calculations.” Good combined his interest in computer hardware with his passion for solving questions related to world hunger, the energy crisis, and carbon dioxide reduction, while also taking into consideration profit for businesses. He was able to significantly increase the growth rate of Spirogyra by creating a warmer environment using waste heat from a working computer.

Thank you to the SEB members who gave up some sleep on a cold Saturday morning to encourage budding young scientists and engineers: Erin Ludwig, Diane Kim, Breanna Belz, Amorette Hernandez, Kelsey Farr, Dan Mikovits, Mackenzie Winton, Kelly Moran, Sylvia Kolda, Emily Black, Francie Fink, Talia Harb, Emma Kerr, and Loyal Murphy.

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 or contact Barbara Villarosa, Business and Communications Program Director, at or 574-631-4776