A 14-year-old Vancouver student is one of 90 regional finalists in the second Google Science Fair for his project to turn rain into energy.
Raymond Wang is one of four Canadian finalists in the competition that received entries from more than 100 countries and the only Canadian in the 13- to 14-year-old age group. “Oh, really, wow,” the resident of Marpole said of this distinction. “I really am quite surprised, and I’m very happy at the same time because when you put in that effort, it’s amazing to see that you can be recognized for the things that you do.”
The Grade 8 student at St. George’s private school learned May 20 that he’d won the honour along with a laptop.
Wang, a computer science enthusiast, avid animator, Model UN participant and piano, clarinet and French horn player, drew inspiration for his Weather Harvesting System from the outdoors. “I heard the sound of rain falling on the roof of my house and I thought, well wait a second, since this sounds loud enough for me to hear, it definitely has lots of potential energy to be harvested,” Wang said. “Having recently read about piezoelectric materials, I thought why not just directly collect the impact energy of precipitation.”
Piezoelectric materials can generate a charge when subjected to mechanical stress. They are commonly found in sensors and buzzers, Wang notes in his online entry.
He created a model roof he believes could collect energy for homes with an extra sensitive piezoelectric material. Wang created a project website, spent hundreds of hours researching, designing and testing his Weather Harvesting System, then donned a suit, set up a tripod and filmed a project video that can be seen online. Wang has measured the amount of energy collected from rain, snow, hail and wind and concluded his system could become a real product.
Wang learned he was a regional finalist in the Google contest upon his return from the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Charlottetown, P.E.I., where he won a gold medal and an S.M. Blair Family Foundation award for a flexible knee brace he’d designed that provides self-adjusting support. “Which basically says that your innovation merits for patent,” Wang said of the foundation award.
He was motivated to design a better knee brace to find a solution for knee pain suffered by family members. His effort impressed his science teacher, Wallace MacKay, who told him about the Google Science Fair. “He’s really quite astute at material science and some of the engineering possibilities,” MacKay said.
Wang’s interest in science fairs started in Grade 3 at St. George’s when he saw a Grade 7 student go to the Canada-Wide Science Fair. He’s since participated twice and wants to pursue science after high school. “I really like how with a relatively good idea you can develop it and possibly, in the future, change the lives of other people,” Wang said.
The 90 regional finalists will be narrowed down to 15 and announced alongside the winner of the Science in Action prize June 6. Google will fly the 15 finalists to its headquarters in California and winners from each of the three age categories between 13 and 18 will be announced, July 23, with one Grand Prize Winner. This team or individual will receive prizes that include a National Geographic expedition to the Galapagos Archipelago and a $50,000 scholarship.