Growing up, I always hated the beginning of the school year. It wasn’t so much the football team’s daily game of Toilet-Face – although I won’t lie, that certainly was a concern. It was actually the “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” essay that filled me with pants-wetting terror. Asking why an essay assignment is so traumatic is a fair question. The simple answer is that, like most of us, I spent my summers inside, playing video games, absent-mindedly searching through a half-eaten bag of Doritos, and growing a glorious neck beard. Having to admit this to another human being, however, was far too heavy a burden for any one man to carry. As a result, these essays turned into creative writing endeavors, the highpoint of which was hunting wolverines in Alaska with my uncle. In light of this, we present you with three teenagers who have already accomplished more in their short existence than you or I ever will.
1. The 17-year-old fighting global warming with algae
Hey you! Don’t look around like you don’t know who I’m talking to. I see you polluting the environment with your big smelly SUV. Why won’t you think about the children? Please! Won’t somebody think about the children? Seriously though, you really should think about the children, or at least their future children.
In the year 2011, carbon dioxide was to blame for roughly 84 percent of all human-produced greenhouse gas, and fossil fuels burned for transportation was responsible for 31 percent of that, according to information from the Environmental Protection Agency. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses essentially act as a blanket, trapping heat normally released back into the atmosphere from the planet. This same process is why your car is so much hotter inside than it is outside. Incidentally, this is also why you shouldn’t leave pets, the elderly or your original Voltron action figures in the car when you run into the store for pizza rolls and Easy Cheese.
Now, imagine, if you will, a device that is placed in your car’s exhaust port that, as if by magic, sorcery, or some sort of science, turns carbon dioxide into clean, tasty oxygen.
Param Jaggi invented such a device while he was still in high school. The device, known as the Algae-Mobile 3, works by filtering carbon dioxide through a canister filled with live algae and an LED light. The CO2 is converted to oxygen and sugar through photosynthesis. Then sweet, sweet oxygen is released. The Algae-Mobile 3 is said to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 85%, costs in the neighborhood of $30, and needs to be replaced every five to six months. Param has been featured in Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 Energy in both 2012 and 2013. You’ll still pay the same for gas, but, with the Algae-Mobile 3, you can at least feel a little better about what comes out of your tailpipe.
2. Four teenagers develop “Pee Power”
After all your years of hoping and dreaming, the wonderful day has finally come: the zombies are here. Now chances are you were one of the first infected, or possibly even Patient 0. Statistically speaking, more of us will end up as brain eaters than as part of a rag-tag group of survivors lead by a cop with a big gun and colossally-stupid son who just won’t stay in the house. But, hey, maybe you are one of the lucky ones. Maybe you managed to not only survive but to find a few other survivors and start walling off a town. Congratulations, you are on your way to becoming a dictator.
In order to maintain order in your new town and to remain a strong Govern…leader, you need to be able to control your people. The best way to do that is to control all the resources. The trick is to convince people that life is better with you on the inside of the wall than outside with more undead than they can shoot. With that in mind, you may want to consider picking up a few urine-powered generators.
Now, to be fair, there is some controversy as to how well this would actually work, but a group of 14-year-old students in Africa seem to have created a generator that will provide six hours of electricity with one liter of urine. According to makerfaireafrica.com, the generator works by putting urine into an electrolytic cell that separates out the hydrogen using electrolysis. The hydrogen is moved into a water filter to be purified and then pushed via gas cylinder into a cylinder of liquid borax which removes the moisture from the gas. The hydrogen is then used to power the generator. If the generator works, it will most certainly help you draw more zombie survivors for you to impose your will on.
3. A flashlight that doesn’t need batteries
You’ve spent the last three weeks enjoying living inside the walls of the town, protected by the leader who may or may not be keeping a child zombie in a closet in his apartment. The thing is, you’ve noticed some things that you don’t like and have you worried, so you decide to quit your job as Official Urine Collector and head out on your own. Obviously, you can’t take too much with you since traveling light is what will keep you from becoming sustenance for the undead horde. You’ve got some food, a gun, and a flashlight, and you leave in hopes of finding a place free of zombie infestation.
Five miles down the road, you hear a low groan from your left. Like a well-trained movie cop, you point your gun and flashlight in the direction of the noise. The flashlight works just long enough for you to see the zombie before the batteries die. If only you had thought to carry a one that didn’t rely on batteries, you would still be a productive member of what’s left of society.
If…only I’d…thought…to pee…in it…
Fifteen-year-old Ann Makosinski did just that – almost. Before you go and make a joke about a solar-powered flashlight (which are real by the way; see Amazon.com), hear me out.
The flashlight that Makosinski created uses Peltier tiles to generate electricity. The plates function via the Seebeck effect, which uses two different electrical conductors to produce electricity. In simple terms, when one of the conductors has heat applied to it, electrons move toward the cooler one.
In the case of the flashlight, the heat is generated from the palm of the hand, and the other side is cooled using a heat sink. Makosinski’s initial design didn’t produce enough electricity to power the LED light, so she converted the direct current that the plates produced into alternating current and ran that through an oscillator circuit with a step-up transformer. The flashlight works as long as there is a 5-degree Celsius difference between the two sides of the plate. This means that as long as you’re not actually a shambling zombie trying to use a flashlight to hunt the smaller, weak humans, you’ll be able to run the flashlight anytime you need.