Solar Power isn't Feasible!

Solar Power isn't Feasible!
This cartoon was on the cover of the book "SolarGas" by David Hoye. It echoes the Sharp Solar slogan "Last time I checked nobody owned the sun!"

Friday, July 20, 2012

Uniting the Avengers: More synergistic possibilities for Google Science Fair finailists to come together to save the world...

It's that time of the year again. Tomorrow morning I fly from  Dusseldorf to San Francisco to be a judge in the annual Google Science Fair, where we will be honoring the work of 15 extraordinary young people from around the world and rewarding one of them with a coveted $50,000 award.

Last month I had the honor of helping judge the Scientific American Science in Action award finalists, another set of 15 young people who dedicated their research and efforts and budding scientific acumen toward finding solutions to challenging environmental, health and social problems.

We ultimately selected two very deserving  14 year old boys from Swaziland, Africa, who came up with a scalable yet inexpensive hydroponics system for their homeland, and these two boys are also entrants in the general Google Science Fair.

During the judging process I wrote a blog post about a fantasy I had for finding a way to reward all these great young people so they could continue to work together to "save the world". In effect I wanted to explore the idea of creating a kind of "Marvel Team-Up" uniting these internationally dispersed kids into a kind of "youth Avengers" whose special talents and projects could be put together synergistically to create a whole much greater than the sum of its parts.

I described my own ideas for how each Science in Action kid's project could fit like a puzzle piece into a holistic "best practice model."

Now I would like to take the opportunity before flying to meet the Google Science Fair finalists to do the same thing with their projects -- a possible "neural network" for synergy, a first stab at finding some connections that could lead to positive unintended consequences.

How they might fit together:

I start my journey of connections on the far right side of this "map of the Google Science Fair finalists".

Raghavendra Ramachanderan, 17, has discovered a way to win energy back from spent fuel through the process of "Visible Light Deoxygenation".  The idea is that, for example, a liquid fuel like hexane (a hydrocarbon) can be oxidized through burning or through a fuel cell to create work or electricity, and then the spent fuel reconstituted through catalyst mediated exposure to sunlight.  We can describe this as a kind of "solar reforming" of burned fuel.  By carrying the process out on glucose and turning it into hexane, Raghavendra demonstrated the possibility of taking this radical process for energy conservation further.  His conclusion, " The success of this experiment will show that fuel can be used repeatedly, since converting used fuel to fuel again using sunlight, behaves like a system where sunlight is trapped into molecules of fuel, which is released upon burning them."

So Raghavendra is working on solving our energy problem, helping ensure that we never run out of fuel, even when the oil runs out.

 Meanwhile, nearbye,  Rohit Fenn, 16, has re-visited a technology that hasn't changed much since it was designed over 300 years ago: the flush toilet, invented by John Harrington in 1596.  Rohit lamented the fact that in much of India today not only is sanitation poor and power lacking but clean water is scarce, so simply flushing an average of 72 liters of drinking quality water  per day per household could be considered criminally irresponsible.

He also noted that many of the urban and rural poor can't even begin to consider upgrading from disease carrying pit latrines to hygienic toilets because the water resources simply don't exist. Either the water itself is unavailable or the electric power needed to pump it is lacking.

His solution: to invent a  simple foot-pedal powered vacuum pump design that any plumber could build out of local materials and get the same efficiency per flush using only half the water.


Luckily, Raghavendra and Rohit live in the same city so theoretically  they could get together, but in an urban agglomeration as large as Bangalore, with over 8.5 million citizens,  it is unlikely they would ever meet. Fortunately they will meet this weekend at Googleplex in Moutain View California half a world away, and have the chance to bring their solutions together for all of us.


It makes sense: if, for example,  we built a demonstration eco-home as a best practice model and installed Rohit's new toilet design, we would radically reduce our water consumption.  But we would still need energy to pump the water to the holding tank so we could flush. And that is where Raghavendra's invention comes in.

Many households throughout the world (and certainly in India where electric infrastructure is spotty or lacking or subject to interruptions) rely on a gas or diesel generator for either primary or backup electricity.  But fuel is expensive. And when the fuel is all used up, not only do their lights go out, but taps run dry and the toilets don't flush. 

 I experienced this difficulty in the Guatemala City slum of Meskital when staying with a Maya Quiche friend -- there was a city wide blackout that lasted in this impoverished neighborhood for an entire week.  With 8 people staying in the same tiny apartment and only one small bathroom things got difficult needless to say.  Since I was staying on the top floor near the unfinished roof (where I was installing a 400 Watt Air403 Wind generator as a gift to the family) I solved my own problem by getting two paint buckets, filling one with leaf and grass clippings snipped from weeds along the road and using the other as a composting toilet that I only had to empty into a ditch in a vacant lot once a week.  The others weren't yet adapted to this solution so they had the hardship of walking to a public toilet.  The home bathroom, which was useless and backed up and smelling, had to be simply locked until the electricity was restored a week later. 


Having gone through this experience I can immediately see how Raghavendra and Rohit's innovations could help in situations like this.  With only half the water needed for toilets a one time pumping event could fill the roof tank and it would last twice as long.  Meanwhile, the spent fuel from the generator (assuming it was collected appropriately) could be recycled using a catalyst in sunlight back into fuel -- or, probably more realistically, glucose containing food wastes could be sunlight reformed into liquid fuels like hexane for combustion in the generator.


So this is an example of synergies in science and action with just the first two finalists. It will be great to observe them meeting and interacting.

 But let's continue our journey across the map.

Moving north to Lucknow, India, we meet Sumit Singh, 14, who created a system for "Verticle Multi-Level Farming to Increase Crop Yields - An Affordable and Feasible Design".  Sumit is familiar to readers of our blog because his project was also a finalist in the Scientific American Science in Action award, and is now up for consideration in the Google Science Fair too.
Using Google Sketchup and a brilliant application of vector geometry in the virtual world and then building a real-world prototype from common bamboo and mud bricks, Sumit made it possible to radically improve food crop yields in constrained spaces such as rooftop gardens.  He demonstrated the proper horizontal and vertical spacing to make maximum use of the sunlight available and realized a design that would use gravity to use limited quantities of water most efficiently.

When I think back to my week in the Meskital slums of Guatemala putting up the wind-mill generator, I wish we had Sumit's solution for rooftop agriculture.  I can envision, in our best-practice model eco-home, having Sumit's Verticle Multi-Level urban farming solution on the roof beneath a 2000 liter water storage tank. Using fuel created from waste starch using Raghavendra's solar catalysed deoxygenation reaction, we would pump water to fill the tank and recharge batteries for electric lights. The water would then flow down through drip irrigation into Sumit's agricultural platform towers.  Then it would make its way down pipes to a toilet tank in the home above Rohit's super low-flush vacuum toilet and on its way to an underground biodigester that would in turn produce cooking fuel for the kitchen and fertilizer for Sumit's rooftop garden design. A truly closed recycling system!


But we need a way to make the small scale agriculture even more efficient and cost-effective -- and applicable to villagers in the most remote and poorest areas too.  


So we continue our journey westward to find Sakhiwe Shongwe, 14, and Bonkhe Mahlalela, 14, from Swaziland in southern Africa.  Sakhiwe and Bonkhe will also be familiar to readers of our blog; like Sumit they were finalists in the Science in Action award, and, in fact they were the award winners.
They won their $50,000 prize for their project, "Unique Simplified Hydroponic Methods; Can The Method be Adapted for Poor Swazi Subsistence Farmers?".

Their innovative idea was to  develop "a Unique Simplified Hydroponic Methods (USHM) (which concentrates on using available village waste materials) that will allow poor Swazi subsistence farmers to grow their crops and vegetables in very large quantities within limited space without using soil as growing medium." 

Take Sakhiwe and Bonkhe's soil-less growing medium, made essentially from trash, and combine it with Sumit's vertical growing platforms and you have a no till, water conservative farming solution for all seasons that even begins to address our urban and rural waste problems. 

Can't wait to see the friendships that develope there!

So let us continue our voyage:

We head almost due North as the migratory bird flies and reach the Ukraine where Alexey Kozlov, 13, and Milena Klimenko, 13, have created the "My Green City" project, focusing on the "study of the effects of vehicle exhaust gases upon the ecology of a large city in real life conditions".

Alexey and Milena and their team (including Mykyta Gordiyenko who was born 2.5 months too late to be officially registered in the group but who nontheless took all the measurements with his Google One Phone!) would contribute much more to our best practice eco-home than a mere awareness that fossil fuel burning cars, buses and trucks create air pollution.  Using GPS data and a program they created in the Python language, along with data display code they generated in JavaScript, CSS and HTML, they were able to take time and location tagged data using a pocket size Carbon Monoxide monitor  and put it up on an interactive Open Street Map that they made publically available.

What they have created should and would be an essential part of every community and neighborhood and would certainly be included in our eco-home.  They have implemented an ability to map out and localize exactly where toxins are accumulating in our immediate environment, correlating the levels of pollution with street intersections, sidewalk and parking lot design, and vegetation. Their work has great planning and policy implications and for our purposes gives us an ability to visualize what is going on in the community.  This is particularly important when it concerns problems caused by outside agents, because no matter how ecologically friendly we hope to make our own homes or communities, if people or practices (like idling trucks or buses) and contaminating where we live and threatening our children, all of our own attempts to provide a healthy environment can be in vain.

By giving us a way to map the spatial and temporal irregularities of pollution, Alexey and Milena and co. give us the chance to spot the trouble spots and take action.

And while we are on the subject of data display and its power to help us pinpoint issues that can then be targeted, every scientist knows that the right kind of graphical presentation can make a world of difference in figuring out how to solve complex problems.  Hans Rosling has shown with "gapminder" that the way we visualize the world's data has profound implications for our ability to affect the health and wealth of nations.

So for our eco-home demonstration synergy we  need  team members who can help us create an inexpensive way to visualize spatial information such as that produced by Alexey and Milena, and a way to transmit building and construction  information for doing the kind of hydroponics that Sakhiwe and Bonkhe and Sumit have innovated, and the type of toilet that Rohit has designed.

Wouldn't it be easier if we could walk through an interactive 3D model before trying to build anything in the real world?  Raghavendra, we remember,  has  himself created a brilliant molecular model animation of the novel deoxygenation process he is working on -- what if we could see all of this in real 3D!?

This is what Melvin Zammit, 18, from Kirkop, Malta brings to the table.  He has created a working prototype of an LED based 3D system that relies on the principle of persistence of vision (POV) and spinning layers of light  to create a floating 3D image projection  that can be walked around, requiring no glasses. It can  eventually can be developed to create "realistic volumetric displays".

Once the stuff of science fiction, Melvin's invention suggests a near future in which visitors to our eco-home can discuss how to build environmetnal technologies or view the results of mapped pollution monitoring in real time and as if in real life. And because the LEDs can be programmed to simulate almost anything, Melvin's contribution would enable us to make certain invisible processes, such as those going on inside the body or in the worlds of microbiology and nanotechnology, to finally be visible to everybody.

Speaking of the invisible world of microbiology, over in Spain, three enterprising students who could definitely benefit from Melvin's technology  have embarked on a study that has implications not just for how we see the nano-world in a drop of water, but how we measure the health and cleanliness of water.  Just as our Ukrainian friends have been helping us visualize air pollution in Kiev through a publically available OpenStreetMap project, Ivan Hervias Rodriguez 17, Marcos Ochoa 16 and Sergio Pascual 15, from Logrono on the Iberian peninsula, are mapping out "The Hidden Life of Water" and publishing their findings (photographic, video, text and graphs)  in an on-line database. So far they have created and cataloged over 50,000 pictures and movies, giving a first hand look at the invisible world within water.

What is most important about their work from our point of view is what it means to our ability to determine whether water is clean or not and what we should do about it.  The students came up with four water type classifications:  Level I: clean water; Level II: water slightly contaminated; Level III: water that is moderately contaminated and Level IV: water that is heavily contaminated. They not only mapped these types of water regionally, using standard measurements of key parameters for contamination (pH, conductivity, temperature, BOD (biological oxygen demand), and presence of nitrites and nitrates and ions of calcium, but then correlated these water types with the consortia of microorganisms found there.

What is emerging is a sense of what a "healthy" ecology for clean water is.  Normally we tend to think that "the only good water is dead water".  All sources of water are suspected of containing pathogens and the way we treat it is to sterilize it, "disinfecting" it of all living beings whether they are beneficial or not.  We boil it, pour toxic chlorine into it, expose it to UV radiation of dose it with ozone, all in attempt to kill whatever might be there, and we also filter it to keep even the tiniest organism out of what we drink and wash with.  All of these measures to kill "La Vida Oculta de Agua" are expensive, time and energy intensive, and many create ancillary health problems (such as the tri-halomethane carcinogens that result from an interaction between chlorine and organic matter in the water). 

But what if we could simply determine when "living water" -- water that still has microorganisms in it -- is healthy to drink? For many communities in developing countries that can't afford the chemicals or energy or systems to purify water and who are risking the terrible consequences of deforestation and indoor air pollution trying to fetch and use fuel to boil water, the ability to simply determine which water was safe to drink and which wasn't could save money, effort and lives.

And taking this idea further, what if it was possible to create a "probiotic" inoculant that would allow a natural water ecosystem to evolve that was self regulating and safe to drink and bathe in and cook with.  The John Todd Living Machine for water purification points in this direction as does the "Schmutzdecke slow sand filter" concept. But what we really need is some way to assay water sources to know how healthy they are, and identify remediations not necessarily based on killing whats in the water, but on replacing the "bad guys" with "good guys".

 With their database and diagnostic tools, these students from Spain make it possible to get to this point.  Eventually people should be able to ascertain quickly whether a water source is potable or not, or useful for cooking or bathing or washing.  People should be able to determine if the proper species composition for health and self regulation is possible, much as we use keystone species of macrofauna to determine the health of rain forests, coral reefs and savannah ecosystems.

You would never declare a forest or coral reef "clean" or "healthy" by applauding the ABSENCE of life forms, yet this is what we do with water.    Ivan, Sergio and Marcos work gives us a chance to look at water in a new way and finally see just who and what we are dealing with in there so we can better know which organisms to target for support or destruction. It permits a much more nuanced approach to water treatment and their expertise would make a nice fit for our eco-home demonstration -- they could look at the water being pumped into the rooftop tank and at everystep of its journey, from the hydroponic rooftop garden down to the sinks and showers and toilets and on to the biodigester and back up to the garden, determine where it could best contribute to the overall health of the system and where it could be tapped for human consumption.  With the proper technological enhancements, the residents could visualize what was going on in the water in 3D in front of them and easily respond when the ecology got out of balance, instead of bombarding their water with chemicals.

Then our ecohome would start concerning itself with how to heat the water -- whether for boiling or bathing, and how to supply electricity to the  water  pumps  and to lights when making fuel isn't practical or is undesirable. 

For that we turn to the work of Yassine Bouanane, 17 from Laval, Canada. 
Yassine has developed an innovative  low cost solar tracking mechanism based on the embedded computing power now available through the open source Arduino microcontroller platform.  It uses two servos to increase the electrical output of a photovoltaic panel by an incredible 36% meaning that, for example, a single 100 Watt panel that would normally produce perhaps 1/2 kWH during an average day could produce nearly .7 kWH during the same time, reducing the cost associated with "going solar", particularly for people who are low income (the cost of the Arduino and servos is considerably less than the cost of an 36 watt panel, for example). The same principle, with more robust hardware, could also be applied to solar thermal tracking for heating water.   Using servos connected basically to gimbles holding the solar panel, Yassine's code enables what has become essentially a "robotic solar panel" to do as the Beatles sing and "follow the sun".

In the true spirit of the open source community, Yassine has generously  created a website with his schematics and Arduino C code available for download for free so that anybody can replicate his work. He writes,  
"Optipan.com est un site internet ayant pour but d'aider des personnes vivant dans des régions pauvres ou éloignées et qui disposent de panneaux photovoltaïques en leur offrant un système qui permet d'orienter leurs panneaux photovoltaïques vers le soleil."
Translated into English this says,

"Optipan.com is an internet site having as its aim the goal of helping people living in poor regions or in remote locations who want to use solar panels by offering them a way of orienting the photovoltaics toward the sun".

Where many students are using similar Ardunio based robotics to create revolving turrets to track targets and shoot things, Yassine has turned his skills toward a more wholesome and important target -- shooting for a clean energy future for all.

His system would make a valuable  contribution to our eco-home demonstration and has implications not only for efficient photovoltaics but creating heliostats that can track the sun and concentrate it for water purification! Because even with a sophisticated understanding of the microbial treasures in water, we need to make sure that disease organisms do not infect the residents of our model eco-village, and concentrated sunlight is a great way to distill water and destroy germs.

But what happens when people do get sick?

It turns out that not far south from Yassine, another Google Science Fair finalist is also using low cost microcontroller circuits to solve problems.  Catherine Wong, 16, from Morristown USA, who was also a Science in Action finalist,  designed a cell-phone compatible, bluetooth enabled electrocardiograph (EKG) prototype that was capable of transmitting an EKG image over the cell phone network for remote examination. Her goal is to ensure that people experiencing poverty and often far from medical services can use their own already purchased phone technology to gather important data about their health and get it to professionals without incurring the costs and dangers of either docotor or patient having to travel.  Her dream is to make things that work for those of us the least well off and in her references she cites one of my most influential and favorite works, "Design for the other 90%":
Chau, R. (2006). Design for the other 90%: Internet Village Motoman network. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from Smithsonian Institution website: http://other90.cooperhewitt.org/‌Design/‌internet-village-motoman-network

With Catherine's technology and java program on-hand at our eco-home demonstration we can site our best practice model away from city services and medical services and feel much more secure that we have a place that is safe to raise our children and take care of our elderly and loved ones.

So with this team of youthful superhero avengers on our side we are moving rapidly toward a world where we can take care of most existential issues ourselves, with low cost devices that we can often build ourselves, and visualize our environmental and personal health data ourselves and  can telecommunicate with experts when necessary.

What we still need is a way to cut down on the costs of accessing experts, whether we are talking about doctors or environmental scientists or educators.  As Marx pointed out in the labor value theory of capitalism, it is the cost of labor that really makes the economy work; the problem is that the poor often remain poor because they can't afford quality expertise.  This is true for engineering and it is also true for education.

What is needed is a way to use inexpensive AI to help us advise, consult and teach.  And this is what Martin Schneider, 14 from Dresher USA and Joshua Li, 14 from Ambler USA are doing with thier "Can You Beat Bob?" project.

Martin and Joshua have captured the spirit of the age -- the Zeitgeist, if you will -- and are keenly aware that "educational video games have emerged as a new medium for teaching core concepts and supplementing existing curriculum".  What they bring to this emerging field is empirical evidence that a virtual competitor (who they named "Bob") could significantly increase the time fourth-graders in an elementary school engaged in productive math games.

With their help and their awareness that what they demonstrated through some rather good science can be applied to gaming that teaches science and history, we can go a step further in realizing what I've been calling "a sustainable development simulator" where people can turn their own homes and communities into sustainable development demonstrations by first "playing their way to success" in a gaming simulation and then taking the STEM skills they learn into the real world for application.

What often holds people back from reifying their desire to apply concept to the real world, however, is a feeling that they can't do it without an "expert" with them.  By having virtual experts available tirelessly at all times to guide and motivate people learning real life skills we radically increase the likelihood that they will be able to use what they learn in a gaming or educational situation in their own lives.

Now while we are on the topic of the benefits of applied artificial intelligence, we come to the work of Brittany Wenger, 17, moving south  from Martin and Joshua down to  Lakewood Ranch, USA.

In effect what Brittany is doing is creating and training that "medical expert"  that poor people and most of us couldn't afford to consult with for the early detection of Breast Cancer. Like Catherine, Brittany is keenly aware that the costs of health care exceed the ability of the afflicted to pay and with 1 out of every 8 women getting breast cancer urgent solutions are needed.  Personally motivated by the suffering cancer caused in her own family she dedicated herself to making diagnosis faster, less invasive and cheaper as well as more effective.

 In Brittany's experiments she developed a custom-crafted neural network in Java that could learn to recognize the difference between malignant and benign cancer samples obtained using a simple Fine Needle Aspirates (FNAs), the least invasive biopsy.  She writes, "

Artificial neural networks detect patterns too complex to be recognized by humans and can be applied to breast mass malignancy classification when evaluating Fine Needle Aspirates (FNAs).

By letting her "medical Bob" AI to do the prescreening, the need for doctors to do more invasive and expensive procedures can be diminished. And by opening up the learning to "the cloud" Brittany has been able to validate her approach with 7.6 million trials using existing dataset instances, showing the power of open-source data approaches and cloud computing to solve big problems. Unlike commercial products which lack certain capacities she says "the network has been published in the cloud, allowing for global submissions and benefit". And the benefits of opening things up to world are that her predictive success was 97.4% .  With more samples we  "may achieve perfection" she says and "maybe ready to diagnose actual patients."

Once again, with this tool as part of our toolkit, the best practice model for sustainable living gets a step closer to being realized -- using Yassine's solar tracker to help provide the necessary electricity for running a computer and internet satellite connection (we brought such equipment to the remotest part of Nepal in our recent "last mile technology" expedition with Alton Byers and Chris Rainier) people can now access an artificial diagnostic expert from anywhere and at low or no cost, and in this case the AI is capable of things no human expert could do.

As we continue west  on to Piano USA  in the middle of the United States, we meet Kimberley Yu, 16, and Phillip Yu, 14. This brother sister team has taken on the challenge of finding a cure to Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a fatal neurodegenerative disease akin to Alzheimer's that afflicts a quarter of a million Americans but currently has no effective treatments.  Similar to Brittany, the Yu's passion for solving this problem comes from a sad personal experience - a devastating form of dementia affected their great grandfather in rural China.  So once again we have young people inspired to solve problems on behalf of "the other 90%" with solutions that can be applied anywhere.

The Yus have done ground breaking original research that has opened up new avenues of study and treatment by actually identifying which specific proteins (FUS)  and pathways (NF-kB)  lead to the chronic inflammation that results in frontotemporal dementia. With their discoveries targeted drugs and therapies can now be developed that goes right to the source of the problem and corrects it rather than having to rely on a shotgun approach that is expensive, time consuming, filled with dangers of side effects and ultimately perhaps useless.  In effect the Yus are creating a map for the pathways that lead to cellular abnormalities. 

With such a team on our team we have in our problem solving community a couple of people who as young siblings were "always curious about science" and now know how to take issues that look to the experts like they have no solution and then work with the right methodology and insight to put their finger on the answer.

Moving on to San Diego we come to Jonah Kohn,  14 whose project "Good Vibrations" "combines science and music to try to help people.  The goal of my device", he says, "is to improve the quality of life for people with hearing loss, especially severe hearing loss".  Using the concept of "multi-frequency tactile sound" which he learned about through bone conduction of his guitar strings via his teeth, he went on to investigate "what haven't reseraches done?" and realized that current work on frequency discrimination has focused on speech which has a limited range. Noting that though cochlear implants have "eight to twenty four channels" they "don't help as much with music because the frequencies tend to be different than for speech" he worked on a device that could use sensory information from the fingers to compensate for information the ears couldn't distinguish.  By dividing the sound spectrum into multiple frequency ranges and using vibrating speakers to apply those ranges through multiple contacts to a user's body, he was able to demonstrate that tone discrimination, pitch discrimination and volume hearing were all significantly improved  (36 to 52 % ) among cochlear implant subjects under the age of 50 (after which tactile sensitivity diminishes dramatically).  Interestingly, normal-range hearing subjects experienced almost no benefit from his device as the brain seems to ignore the redundant information coming in from other sensory organs.

As a musician I can attest to the importance of being able to perceive the richness of this artform in creating human well-being and couldn't imagine not being able to listen to music.  For our sustainable living team to have somebody on board like Jonah who thinks not just about the needs of the "other 90%" but of that percentage of people suffering the deprivation of this important sense -- hearing  -- gives us the chance for true equity and compassion for our fellows, a prerequisite for a sustainable civilization.  What is more, the ability to break physical phenomena like music down into constituent frequencies and then create devices that can help different brains reconstitute that data into a whole from different sensory pathways has important implications for whole-brain holistic learning and multiple intelligences and works nicely with the 3D data visualization of Melvin with his spinning LED layers  and the mapping of air pollutants by Alexey and Milena. They should find some great synergies discussing different forms of data visualization and how best to present information to our brains.

As we move up the coast to Los Gatos California we meet Sabera Talukder, 16, who was also  a finalist in the Google Science in Action contest.

Sabera's "low cost solution to clean drinking water", "Pani Purification" (Pani is Hindi for water) adds another piece to the puzzle for providing best practice infrastructure for our model sustainable home and community.  A Bengali-American teenager, she made a summer trip to her father's village in Bangladesh and came home determined to help solve the unfortunate water problems plaguing the people in the area.

While other girls her age were working on putting together the right accessories for their wardrobe, Sabera was working on putting together an effective solution to water contamination using Jute Bag and Copper Mesh fileters, solar battery powered UV lights and activated carbon.  Simple but effective solutions like painting tubing white to reflect the UV light and increase its efficiency were implemented.  Flow control  via pressure sensitive valves conserved energy so that she could use a very small and inexpensive PV panel to trickle charge a normal car battery and get effective results.

Sabera's attention to the details of how to create a system that locals could build out of ubiquitous and cheap materials rather than expensive imports makes her system a nice addition to the others cited above.  Her criteria should be in the handbook for every would-be engineer hoping to engage in development work:

The Criteria:
 The apparatus must be portable.
-It must be made of cheap materials.
-It must cost under 25$.
-It must be self sufficient.
-It must be durable.
-The materials must be locally available.
-It must be easy to fix if problems arise.
-It must be able to weather different climates.
-Local villagers must be able to maintain and operate it.
-It must be easy to deploy, and accessible for everyone.

 In addition to building and testing the prototype, she ran tests to prove the efficacy of the system, running separate and combined UVc and Activated Carbon treatments on known pathogens in the three major shape groups  like Rhodospirillum rubrum (spiral shaped) , Bacillus subtilis (rod shaped)  and Mircococcus luteus (sphere shaped).

With Sabera on our team we can much better protect the health of our families; combined with the know-how of Ivan, Marcos and Sergio we some powerful answers emerging   to the question "how can we ensure that everybody has safe clean water to drink and use and return to our environment?"

The final stop on our journey West takes us to Tigard USA where we meet Yamini Naidu, 17. 
Yamini's work synergizes nicely with that of Melvin and Raghavaendra.  Where Melvin creates floating 3D images through light interference patterns and Rhaghavendra used 3D animation to model the deoxygenation reaction driven by sunlight that he is studying, Yamini creaed a "homology model of a human receptor protein using a computer modeling program". The goal?
To go "from models to medications: identification of medication leads for treating methamphetamine addiction".

It is all fine and good for us to try to pool all the talent we find at the Google Science Fair to create a best practice model eutopia that can provide clean, abundant energy, food and water and eliminate our wastes, and that allows us to monitor our health in youth and old age, visualize data so that we can end environmental threats and disease threats and ensure that all people can enjoy the benefits of life and music and art and civilization and the company of loved ones until the end of our days. But if we truly are going to make a better world, we also have to use today's tools to solve yesterdays self-inflicted problems, often born out of a deep dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Drug addiction is a terrible social problem that we can hope living in a sustainable community that is back in touch with nature and guided with intelligence will prevent.  But what do we do with the millions of people who are already addicted? What about those who chose to drop out and now can't find their way back in?

Yamini's computational chemistry work toward a rational drug design approach helps us answer that question. She discovered two novel allosteric binding sites and "put her creativity to the test" to design novel chemical compounds (called YTN) to interact with those sites and displace METH. The TAAR1 receptor she has identified is also associated with Diabetes, Schizophrenia, Depression, Alzheimer's Disease and stroke, so there are promising synergies between Yamini and Kimberly and Philip Yu that we can anticipate. Meanwhile, her recognition of the potential for the TAAR1 to be used in the creation of a biosensor binding to toxic compound leading to "the devlopment of efficient methods to treat environmental pollution" that can be "done through in silico modeling analysis" gives her nice resonance with the environmental sensing work her fellow finalists are doing in the Ukraine and in Spain.

 One can also hear her discussing the possibility for virtual screening of 3D homology models related to the receptors she is studying with Brittany, exploring how computer programs can do the jobs that human experts once did, but with greater speed and accuracy, and talking to Martin and Joshua about developing computer games that, rather than addicting kids, help kids get off of real drug addictions by coming up with virtual solutions during "in silico" experimentation that can be applied "in vivo".

Motivated by the loss of her uncle due to a stroke, and recognizing that Meth users also suffer strokes, she is hopeful that her research will also help provide insight "in the treatment of strokes whose etiology is still unknown".  But when not engaged in her medical research, she trains in a form of  classical Indian dance, using this skill and art "to help the community by participating  in performances to help raise funds for various causes sponsored by local charitable and cultural organizations."

This desire to use art and music to help others creates a nice synergy with the goals of Jonah and indeed is a thread that binds all of these extraordinary young people, who are as multi-dimensional as one can imagine, reflecting not just good STEM education (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) but the right variant on what we call STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering ART and Math, or Science, Technology, Edutainment, Art and Music).

Yamini's personal statement seems to be applicable to all the contestants: "an aspiration to use science for the benefit of humanity, linking together... civic affairs with science innovation [with the] goal... to give back to the community because the community has given me so many oppportunities... asking not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

These are an incredible group of young people, and it will be fascinating to see how they interact and share ideas.

I can only hope that one day we, as a society, can provide more opportunities for these high caliber minds and hearts to come together and share their ideas and outlooks and ultimately put them into synergistic practice, creating an implementation space we can all turn to,  lighting a path for the rest of us to get out of the darkness of environmental destruction, poverty and disease.

We hear the song that reminds us to believe that "the children are our future".  Properly nurtured and supported and encouraged to work together, these children certainly are!


























 




















































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