Young Scientists’ Competition: 5 projects that solve real problems
Engagement | innovation | Identifying challenges and shaping the future – that’s a mission not just for us as a company but also for more than 12,000 young scientists each year in Europe’s biggest contest for young people. At this year’s regional heat of the Jugend forscht competition in Dortmund, the youngsters presented work with strong similarities to our own.
They build multifunctional robots to make work easier
Aniton Antonys’ project display stand is every bit as high-tech as it looks. Moving around it is a robot, not much larger than an A4 sheet of paper. It consists of a wooden board mounted on two crawlers with room on top for a power bank, a computer circuit board, ultrasound sensors and lots of thin wires in orange, purple, yellow and blue. The computer circuit board is the central steering unit and is linked to the specially developed control app on Aniton’s laptop. When Aniton enters a code, the robot moves around to map its environment with the help of the ultrasound sensors, storing its route coordinates as it goes. It then emails a map directly to the user’s smartphone. “If you already have the coordinates, you can use the robot for example to transport something from one exact location to another,” says the 17-year-old. The scope of applications is wide: The little vehicle can also be used as a mobile surveillance camera or to calculate the room areas of new buildings. But the young researcher believes it could also be particularly useful for mapping collapsed buildings. “With a precise map of the collapsed structure, emergency teams can carry out rescue work more safely.” Aniton worked on the robot for a total of two years. As well as making sketches and building the hardware, he developed the software that transforms an assortment of tires, wires, sensors plus chip into a mapping robot. For developing and implementing this idea, he won 2nd prize in the “Technology” category of Jugend forscht.
They develop 3D printers that make testing new products easier
First prize in the Technology category went to Johannes Rostek – with a 3D printer he built himself that has special skills. Conventional printers have trouble making holes, says Johannes. Where a hole is meant to be, the printer inserts a support structure that has to be detached later. “It’s like in model making, where you have to snap off the individual parts from their sprues.“ By contrast, Johannes’ printer can print complex models without support structures which means it is not only user-friendlier it also uses material more efficiently than conventional 3D printers. Here’s how it works: First the printing material is placed in a container from where it is automatically transferred to a build plate. A laser then removes material according to a preprogrammed design and accurately cuts out holes. That means removing material from the model by hand is now a thing of the past. It took the 18-year-old just six months to design and build the printer which can even print filigree models in sugar and wax.
They research into new sources of energy to make everyday appliances eco-friendlier
Okay, so they haven’t yet quite succeeded in recharging a smartphone; but a small light and a clock are no problem for Louisa Stahl (14) and Simon Ruhland (12)’s home-made battery. The duo looked to generate electricity from a very special source: soil. To this end they placed some citric acid with copper and zinc wires into a pot of damp soil. And lo and behold – electrons flow between the metals in the earth, producing energy. To operate a kitchen clock, Louisa and Simon need ten pots of soil which they hook up together using wires. “Theoretically you could continue with that indefinitely to harvest enough electricity for bigger appliances, though of course it would be a major undertaking,” says Louisa. And Simon takes the opportunity to point out the risks involved in handling metals: “Copper and zinc can often be found in discarded electronic equipment. So people who just dump their waste in the woods risk causing a forest fire. Because the electron flow principle works in just the same way there too.”
They look for alternative engine fuels
Henning Padt (12), Marian Ettmeyer (11) and Lasse Döbbener (11) agree that we need engines in our everyday lives. And they also agree that there’s a cleaner, greener fuel to run them on than conventional gasoline: nuts. “We were looking for a high-energy substance. And we quickly came up with the fat in nuts.” And because the trio didn’t want to use a real foodstuff for their experiment, they decided on the fat in acorns. First they had a lot of shelling and grinding to do before they could extract the fat from their nut powder with the help of petroleum. At the end of the process they had an extremely combustible product: In tests the boys found that just by holding a flame around a centimeter away from the fat, their biological fuel caught fire. So Henning, Marian and Lasse have found real evidence that nuts can be used to make alternative fuel. And they are certain: “In theory you could use it to power cars.”
They engage with the needs of customers
This year’s thyssenkrupp special prize went to Conrad Stahl (12) and Jarno Müller (11) for an extremely useful innovation. The two took a closer look at a problem familiar to many home owners: “Where we live there were a lot of break-ins last year,” says Jarno. “But security cameras don’t deter burglars. And they’re not particularly attractive either.” So he and his friend thought about what people like to buy for their homes and how this could be transformed into an alarm system. They came up with a doormat with an in-built pressure sensor that sounds an alarm as soon as a trespasser crosses the threshold. “Our next step is to fit the mat with a Bluetooth connector so the owner of the house can be notified immediately via cellphone.” The two friends aged just eleven and twelve have shown how successful product development works: identify a problem and look for a customer-friendly solution.
Further projects and impressions of the competition can also be found here: https://www.sat1nrw.de/aktuell/jugend-forscht-168068/
thyssenkrupp hosts the regional heat of “Jugend forscht“ young scientists’ competition
Alongside many other support programs, collaborations with partner schools and universities, and projects for schools, thyssenkrupp has for the past 35 years also been supporting young people in connection with the Germany-wide competitions for young scientists “Jugend forscht” (Young People Research) and its junior section “Schüler experimentieren” (Schoolchildren Experiment). 71 children and young people from Arnsberg, Hattingen, Lennestadt, Menden, Waltrop and Werl took part in this year’s regional heat at the DASA Working World Exhibition Center in Dortmund. Further regional heats – also organized by thyssenkrupp – took place in Duisburg, Bremen, Saarbrücken and Andernach. The winning teams from the regional heats will go forward to the state competition at the beginning of April in Essen and Leverkusen. The national final will then follow, culminating in an award-giving ceremony on May 28, 2017.