I’d like to give a quick re-cap of the 2014 Beal Bank Dallas regional Science and Engineering Fair. This is the 2nd year now that we participated as judges. Tom, Kris, and I were joined by our newest member, Irwin, who is moving to the Dallas / Fort Worth area from Boston. Once again, we were overwhelmed by the huge number and deep talent and dedication exhibited by the hundreds and hundreds of high quality exhibits. Even just concentrating on the Senior High division, there were nearly 1000 exhibits. It is really heartening to see, in an era where ‘they’ keep saying that our youth are unmotivated and lacking, so many students working so hard, and delving so deeply into so many complex and important subjects.
Even concentrating on subjects that were related to Mars exploration and settlement (spacecraft, space science, food preparation and preservation, and technologies of interest in closed environments) there were many great exhibitors that we interviewed and got to understand better. And this year, we had an project that was directly related to Mars!
Our Curiosity Prize went to project 923, ‘The Mars House’. Two students had developed and tested a concrete / brick method for making a mars settlement house that offered protection from UV radiation, heat, cold, and pressure (including a pressure test). They had clearly put thought into how this would be done in a Mars environment, and were the winners for us, being so closely related to Mars exploration.
We gave four honorable mentions – non-cash prizes, but the students can claim these prizes on their resumes and records.
Project 913, ‘Dark Matter’. at first we passed by this project, as, while Space related, it was not Space Exploration related, but in the end we circled back and were absolutely blown away. The young lady had done some very in-depth and original research into the nature of Dark Matter and the nature of the Universe. It was amazing how deep her knowledge was (at least the part that i could understand, which wasn’t much – most went over my head!).
Project 927, a project on the stability of rockets. These was a return team of two young ladies who we had seen last year, and they had really done a great job. They actually built a small wind tunnel and put rocket models in them to experimentally verify their stability levels, and compare it to theory, which matched very well. All in all, very impressive.
Project 746 was a different one, seemingly unrelated to Mars, and i wonder if the young man who did the project is scratching his head as to why the Mars Society gave him a prize. But hear me out. He had conceived of and built a purely hydro-mechanical, passive, device that would rotate a solar array to better track the sun. rather than using electric sensors and servo-motors, he built fluid flasks that would naturally re-balance their fluids in response to sunlight that would tilt a solar array to follow sunlight. he did his work with water and intended it to help in low-tech third world environments, but the same design could in principle be applied to solar panels on Mars. Of course you’d need a different fluid in the cold Martian environment (liquid methane?), but this could really be something useful.
Then we had project 940, where a team of young students had worked on using slightly burned banana leaves as a water filter that was actually quite effective at filtering polluted water. The ability to use one ‘waste’ products to better clean other waste, while intended for 3rd world farmers, would of course be valuable in a closed environment like a Mars colony.
All in all, very impressive work, and thanks again to Tom for setting up our judging, and to Kris and Irwin for helping out as judges.
See you Sunday,
PS here is a link to a newspaper article on it. Our group can be seen in photo # 5.