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Commack students get $8,100 grant to make energy-saving device

Commack High School was recently awarded a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam grant in the amount of $8,100 to create a device that reduces the standby power consumption of electrical devices in the home and office.  Commack is one of 15 high schools nationwide to be selected as an InvenTeam this year.

InvenTeams are teams of high school students, teachers, and mentors that receive grants up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. Entering its seventh year, this initiative of the Lemelson-MIT Program aims to inspire a new generation of inventors.

“Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. By encouraging a sustainable culture of invention in schools and communities, we hope to empower high school students to explore their interests in science, technology, engineering, and math during high school, college, and beyond. Further, our goal is to instill confidence in youth to solve problems they encounter,” said Leigh Estabrooks, invention educator officer of the Lemelson-MIT Program, who manages the initiative. “The InvenTeam experience provides valuable exposure to these fields and enhances professional skills such as teamwork and leadership.”

Technology teacher Joseph Castrogivanni initiated the InvenTeam application process last spring and attended training at MIT in June to help prepare the final proposal. A prestigious panel of judges composed of educators and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, representatives from the industry, MIT staff and alumni, and former Lemelson-MIT Award winners assembled this fall and selected Commack for one of this year’s InvenTeam grants.

 According to Castrogivanni and his team, "We will invent a device that reduces standby power consumption in the home and office. By using infrared radiation sensors and current measurement techniques, the device will be able to determine when to turn on and turn off power to an appliance respectively. The device will be a small module that connects the appliance to a wall outlet. Costing less than $35, the common consumer will be able to effectively and inexpensively decrease his/her energy usage with this device."

The team of students, led by Sonal Nanda, met frequently over the summer with Castrogivanni. Their application was based on the premise that if mankind’s excessive usage of energy produced by non-renewable sources continues, not only will our current energy production techniques become unsustainable in the future, but the harmful contaminants released by these industrial energy-production processes will cause lasting damage to the Earth. Instead of prolonging the trend and increasing annual energy production, consumers need to take steps to reduce their energy use until a sustainable form of energy production can be developed.

Even the smallest percentage of energy wasted carries a great significance when considered on such a large scale. Based on a Canadian study, industry experts estimate that standby power accounts for four to ten percent of residential energy use in developed countries, amounting to almost $11 billion annually. Our product also has the potential to reduce global warming; it would save the world 230 million tons of carbon emissions each year. A device that cuts down standby energy will assist consumers using electricity for everyday needs, industrial companies using already large amounts of energy, and a world running low on non-renewable energy as a whole.

Over the next nine months, the Commack InvenTeam will develop its "Vero Verde" device. In June, the students will showcase a prototype of their invention at EurekaFest at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. EurekaFest, presented by the Lemelson-MIT Program, is a multi-day celebration designed to empower a legacy of inventors through activities that inspire youth, honor role models, and encourage creativity and problem solving.

Brenda Lentsch handles public relations for the Commack school district.

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Tags: Commack schools

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