A teenager from Victoria, B.C. made headlines recently when her most recent invention was rewarded with the Weston Youth Innovation Award of $2000. Ann Makosinski was presented with the privately funded prize at the Ontario Science Centre on June 17th, 2014 for the expansion on a previous idea that earned her recognition at the 2013 Google Science Fair.
Makosinski’s original invention was a flashlight that shows lots of potential for helping people around the world. Rather than rely on the non-renewable batteries that power many of our electronics, the young inventor designed the flashlight to operate on body heat alone. The heat generated by the palm of the person holding the flashlight is enough to produce light. This year she expanded on the idea by creating a body-heat powered head lamp. Functioning on the same principles as the flashlight, this device is strapped to the forehead where the heat given off by the body produces the electricity to illuminate a small LED light. Moreover, this new design also includes solar panels for additional power and a capacitor that stores energy in place of a battery. She is also currently working to extend the features of the flashlight to potentially include the same solar power and energy storing capabilities.
Both inventions are built with Peltier tiles that allow each to devise electricity from body heat. These handy components rely on the principles of the Peltier effect: when different temperatures exist across a material, a charge is diffused from hot to cold and results in a thermoelectric effect. While the technology is not overly efficient in its conversion at the moment, it still produces enough electricity to light the small LED lights in both devices. In the flashlight, the hot and cold contrast is generated through the heat of the human hand on one side and the flow of air on the other; the handle of the flashlight is hollow to allow cool air to circulate.
In an interview with CBC News, Makosinski explains that a friend of hers was the inspiration for this helpful and humanitarian invention. Being partially of Filipino descent, the teenager had a conversation with a friend in the Philippines who was failing a class. Her friend explained she did not have electricity and as a result she was unable to properly study in the evening. This inspired the young scientist to create an alternative to traditional electricity-dependent lighting. In the interview she stated, “A lot of people around the world still have this problem, where something we take for granted like light or electricity just isn’t a reality for them, so I wanted to create some kind of potential solution and this was my idea.”
The Weston Youth Innovation is given out by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, which aims to reward young Canadians using science to make positive changes in the world. The foundation specifically seeks candidates who demonstrate curiosity, perseverance, risk-taking, and ingenuity. Last year’s winner was an Ontarian who invented a water filtration system to remove silver contaminates from water using unicellular organisms. It is clear this award continues to attract some of the country’s most creative and intelligent youth.
What’s Next for Makosinski?
The prize recipient intends to invest the $2000 into getting patents for her inventions but highlighted some issues in trying to get the product picked up by manufacturers. Since the body heat produced cannot currently generate as much light as a battery, companies are holding back on working with her until the brightness meets the standard of industry competitors.
To see the full CBC interview with Ann Makosinski, click here. At MAKODesign + Invent, we are always amazed by the inventions and ideas that enter our offices each day. If you have an invention you would like to get off the ground, then contact us today.
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