When I was in tenth grade I’m pretty sure I spent most of my free time watching movies and reading fanfic. And here Ann Makosinski is inventing a new type of flashlight and advancing to the finals of the Google Science Fair. I feel lazy.
“I became interested in the area of harvesting surplus energy when I realized that humans are a great source of untapped thermal energy… My objective became to make a flashlight that runs solely on the heat of the human hand.”
To do that she used Peltier tiles, a device that produces energy when they’re warmed on one side (by body heat, say) and cooled on the other (by ambient air). The British Columbia native found that the tiles generated enough energy with no problem, but they didn’t produce the voltage she needed with the circuit she was using. So, like any teenage science-loving badass, she kept doing research, trying new circuits, and even building her own transformers until she found a circuit/transformer combination that worked. “This took quite awhile ’cause I had to do it during the school year as well, and I had homework, plays, whatever that I was also doing,” she explains.
The result is two hollow flashlights, one of which uses an aluminum tube and the other a PVC tube from Home Depot, each of which cost Makosinski about $26 to make (she estimated that the price will go down if they’re mass produced) and can maintain a steady beam of light for over 20 minutes.
Granted, 20 minutes isn’t a long time when you’re in the woods at night being chased down by a bloodthirsty wendigo. (That’s what happens on camping trips, right? I blocked memories of my childhood ones out.) But if she wins the Google Science Fair grand prize she’ll walk away with a $50,000 scholarship that will doubtless help her on her way to lighting up our lives even more.