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March 27, 2013

Young inventors tackle concussions, hand pumps, dryers

By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic

From left, partners Jacob Reeves and Brant Blaha, and partners Chesney Nagel and Arianna Oorlog, all of Avon, chat by their exhibits at the regional science fair Tuesday at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. The two teams were among the grand award winners. (Anna Jauhola/Republic)

Plankinton and Avon will again send students to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May.

The students who won the senior division grand awards Tuesday at the South Central South Dakota Regional Science and Engineering Fair at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell are Justin Krell, of Plankinton, along with Arianna Oorlog and Chesney Nagel, and Jacob Reeves and Brant Blaha, all of Avon.

Krell created a device to diagnose concussions after a car crash.

His “HardHit” device aims to help improve the response time by paramedics and medical professionals by diagnosing traumatic brain injuries faster.

“There’s a lot about concussions in the news,” Krell said. “I did a lot of research and no one is doing anything like this.”

The device is placed in the vehicle headrest and uses an ultrasonic distance sensor and a microcontroller to track the force of an impact and determine whether a person suffered a concussion.

The data is transferred to a memory card, which medical personnel can retrieve. Krell hopes his device could eventually be used through OnStar and smartphone applications.

Oorlog and Nagel, meanwhile, teamed up to get the most possible production from a hand pump bottle.

“We watched our teachers get frustrated with getting all the lotion and sanitizer out of pump bottles,” Oorlog said. “Windex had just come out with a new bottle design, so we thought if everyone is thinking about this, why not?”

The girls found that a clay model at a 42 degree angle placed at the bottom of a bottle decreases the waste by 67 percent. They calculated that a 55.8-degree angle would decrease the waste by 92 percent.

“We deal with this ourselves,” Nagel said. “We’re girls. We use a lot of shampoo. When you can’t pump any more out, you have to unscrew the lid and dump it out of the bottle. That’s frustrating.”

But they hope the idea can help eliminate unnecessary waste.

Reeves and Blaha wanted to improve the efficiency of a dryer by using geothermal power.

“We basically wanted to conserve heat and energy,” Reeves said. “We tested it on the school’s dryer.”

Their device collected about 6 percent of the dryer’s heat with each 45-minute dryer cycle. If they dried 12 loads of laundry, the heat collected could power 38 100-watt light bulbs for 45 minutes.

With further research, the boys hope their device can be expanded to other exhaust systems.

Three student observers will have the chance to accompany the top winners to the international fair in May: Julie Boyle, of Avon, and Aspen Bechen and Miranda Goldammer, of Mitchell.

Boyle was also chosen to attend the GENIUS Olympiad science fair in June at Oswego, N.Y., along with Karisa Markel, of Avon.

Tyler Decker and Tyler Melmer, of Mitchell, were chosen to attend the I-SWEEEP science fair in May in Houston.

Middle school students who took the grand junior prizes were Stephanie Faulhaber, of Plankinton; Devin Dethlefsen, of White Lake; and Jill Bertus and Lukkes Mudder, of Avon.

Mike Farney, director of the science fair, said he’s thrilled to see the students work so hard and creatively at the annual fair.

“I’m more surprised every year by the creativity of projects at the science fair,” Farney said. “I would attribute that to the wonderful Internet and the media, and that students are constantly thinking creatively.”

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Last updated: 3/27/13