Shaheen Begum (far right), a biology teacher and science department chair at Dutchtown High School, is shown at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with Dutchtown High students Han Bui (far left) and Tushar Mittal.
The potential for advances in technology is ever-present in the minds of some local young people, as evidenced by their performance in a recent international engineering and science contest.
Henry County had three young people — Tushar Mittal, Ham Bui, and Daniel Dorminy — compete in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), held May 14-18 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.
Dorminy, a high school junior with Sola Fide Homeschool in McDonough, won a $1,500 award from King Abdulaziz & His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (MAWHIBA). The foundation is a national organization in Saudi Arabia focused on cultivating the talents of gifted, creative citizens.
The 17-year-old home schooler said he was selected for the award based on the creativity demonstrated through his science fair project, “Improving Backyard Wind Turbines with Blade Additions.”
“I actually built two wind tunnels and tested them, using my own wind turbine,” said Dorminy. “I’m using proven technology from 1970s [aircraft], and I’m applying it to backyard turbines.”
Dorminy said he purchased a commercial residential wind turbine and built wind tunnels to test blade additions. He said he attached the additions, plastic wing fences, atop the turbine’s 1-meter wingspan blades using household hot glue.
The modified blades, he concluded, experienced reduced drag which helped increase the turbine’s overall power production by about 10.5 percent.
The teen said he has been studying wind turbine technology for the past four years, though he has been interested in aeronautic technology since he was a toddler. He wants to pursue an education in mechanical engineering. This summer, he plans to expand the scope of his project.
“I have a very big passion for wind energy,” said Dorminy. “I’m basically trying to narrow a gap between what manufacturers say it will produce, and what it will actually produce.”
Dorminy hopes to be among the competitors at next year’s ISEF. This year, he competed against more than 1,500 young scientists and engineers, selected from 446 affiliate fairs in nearly 70 countries, regions, and territories around the world.
More than 400 ISEF finalists received awards and prizes for their work, including Tushar Mittal, a sophomore of Dutchtown High School, in Hampton. The 15-year-old golfer also was named the Henry County’s 2012 Male Academic Athlete of the Year.
Mittal was involved in 16 interviews from professionals and judges at ISEF. He said they were interested in learning more about his science fair project, “Using Oxidation as an Advantage: Purifying Wastes and Producing Electricity.”
The teen was able to create a microbial fuel cell, and presented it as a model to convert chemical energy produced from bacteria directly into electricity.
Mittal’s project hinges on bacterial oxidation and the movement of electrons through a water filtering process. The result is electric currents and the production of electricity that can be stored or used as a direct power source. The water, in turn, is filtered from its raw form to a treatable form.
“I went into it to produce a renewable source of energy,” explained Mittal. He had worked on his project over the past year, improving upon a project he submitted to ISEF judges last year.
Mittal recalled a visit to his grandmother’s home in New Delhi, India, during the monsoon season. He said the lights went out, and he realized there were no backup, or recovery systems, there to get them back on immediately. The experience, he said, jump-started ideas for him to create an inexpensive, renewable, and environmentally friendly way to generate electricity.
Having developed the concept over the past several months, Mittal said he believes his project’s application could be useful to military installments stationed in remote areas of the world. He surmised the military would be able to begin the process of water purification while creating electricity from the rawest of resources — silt and mud.
Mittal won a $1,000 cash prize for placing third in the competition’s “environmental management” category, and he plans to put the money toward his college education.
Mittal’s classmate, Han Bui, did not place her first time competing in the ISEF, though she did participate in six interviews.
The 15-year-old freshman, currently ranked second in her class, entered her project into the “plant sciences” category of the ISEF. The project explains an age-old home remedy in keeping and ripening fruits.
“It’s an Asian practice,” said Bui, a native of Vietnam. “The theory is that rice absorbs ethylene released by most fruits.”
Bui noted the rice serves the same purpose of gassing rooms that commercial growers use to ripen produce. Gassing rooms provide an environment where ethylene gases surround fruits and ripen them from the outside, in.
“Third-world countries don’t have gassing rooms,” she said.
Placing ripening fruits into a bed of uncooked rice provides a similar environment for fruit to ripen. But in rice, Bui added, there is more insulation, and the ethylene gases are able to encase fruit to ripen more evenly.
“The faculty and staff are very proud of the accomplishments of Tushar and Han,” said Dutchtown High Principal Dwala Nobles. “Several weeks ago, Tushar assured me that he would place at ISEF, and of course, I never doubted him... because he was awarded an opportunity to participate at last year’s ISEF. We were confident that he would take full advantage of the experience by enhancing and modifying his research design.
“Tushar and Han are gifted students who understand the global needs for scientific innovation,” continued Nobles.
“Every year, we’ve had participation,” said Shaheen Begum, a biology teacher and science department chair at Dutchtown High. The school opened in 2004, and has had ISEF representation since 2007.
“We’re very proud of the whole program. This program has been nourished by the entire science department here at Dutchtown,” said Begum. “[The science fair] is a tool to generate the curiosity in the students. They have learned engineering principles and the scientific method, which is an excellent approach to problem solving.”
Mittal and Bui said they plan to compete again next year.
“It’s a new experience every time you go,” added Mittal. “It’s never going to get old.”