2 Times the #SciFund

I enjoy talking with my students about innovation and STEM subjects, so my involvment in the #SciFund Challenge has been a common topic since round 1 when I was raising gifts towards a grid computing compute node (a PC linked up with others to solve big tasks – a part of a large distributed “supercomputer”).

STEMulate Learning Lab graphic for #SciFund Round 1

Many of my students and Twitter followers also check on the regular tweets from the equipment (@STEMulateOrg) just to see what came of the first round’s results. Whenever the system gets a Badge for reaching a goal towards a particular effort, such as the Bronze Badge for 14 days of processing time towards “Computing for Clean Water” a few weeks ago, my students will make sure to mention it.

Today, one of my students brought up #SciFund Round 2, asking me what I am doing differently this time. I noted that my funding goals were more reasonable for public micro-funding, that I had gotten some help with my graphics (I may be innovative, but artistic is outside of my talents) and that I had spent more time in preparing the videos leading up to the event itself. So much time in fact, that I almost failed to complete one of the projects for thie year’s #SciFund Challenge.

Since it is #SciFund 2, then 2 times the #SciFund seemed appropriate – and I have put together two great projects for people to look over and decide if they are worthy of public support.

The STEMulate Learning logo atop a 3D printed robot image.

I focused my creativity on the main personalized robotics course as it will directly benefit our kids and our world if they develop an interest in STEM studies and become innovators in a few years.

However, I was also able to finish the second project just under the bell for the Challenge. (Video will be late, but the idea is up and complete!)

The words "solar seaweed" atop a rendered image of the artificial kelp.

Artificial kelp (Solar Seaweed) is my own design from research into sustainable energy systems. It is a combination of flexible photovoltaic solar panels and piezoelectric materials that mimics natural seaweed to harvest power from waves and sunlight without pollution or byproducts. Because it functions just as natural kelp forests would, it can also be used to provide protected fish nurseries where industrialization and overfishing have denuded reefs.

I am unable to tell up front which project will be more interesting to supporters, since interesting kids in STEM subjects is a delayed-return investment, while sustainable energy is a hot topic in the news today. I know that both fire up my eagerness to get to work on further research!

I was a schoolchild during the oil crisis back in the 1970’s and my Science Fair projects often focused on alternative energy sources. I stumbled on a technology that is now called “concentrated solar” using a lens to focus sunlight onto a solar cell for more power output (because solar cells were expensive and I wanted my experiment to do something more than just move the meter a little bit). Since that time, I have designed dozens of energy producing systems and improved energy consuming technologies – many of which are inspired by living organisms. This design came to me when I first got a sample of flexible thin-film solar cells for my STEMulate Learning workshops and I often use it to talk about the innovative working process to my classes.

We need kids to share the desire to see what they can make of everything they see and touch – and that’s why I conduct the STEMulate Learning workshops, and why I am joining together with other scientists in the #SciFund Challenge – Round 2!

Both #SciFund 2 Project Logos #Scifund 2 – 2 times the science, 2 times the great ideas, 2 times the projects!