Each year, students in Stuyvesant High School’s Honors Chemistry classes submit research papers to the Toshiba/ National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) ExploraVision Awards competition. This year, three teams from Stuyvesant out of 500 teams nationwide were given honorable mentions for their projects: “A Non- Radioactive Nuclear Reactor Based on Aneutronic Fusion of Lithium,” “Using Nanowires and Graphene Membranes to Refine Artificial Photosynthesis,” and “NaviSound.”
ExploraVision is an annual science competition available to students who are in grades K-12 in the United States, U.S.
Territories or Canada and are enrolled in a public, private or home schools. The competition encourages teachers to sponsor their students as they work in groups of two to four to simulate real research and development. The groups investigate a topic of interest and devise an idea for future technology.
Each research paper submitted featured a 150-word abstract, which included information about and summarized the group’s proposed technology. Additionally, there are a description consisting of an overview of the present form of the technology, a history of the technology, the team’s vision for the technology twenty years in the future, necessary future breakthroughs to make the technology possible, alternate ideas the team thought of during the process, and the potential positive and negative consequences their technology would have on society. Students also supplemented their research papers with drawings and included sample web pages for their project.
All Honors Chemistry students were required to submit a project to the competition. This year, students in the Honors Chemistry classes of chemistry teachers Dr. Jeffrey Kivi, Dr. Zhen-Chuan Li, and Samantha Daves all participated in ExploraVision. Dr. Li took over and mentored Kivi’s class in January as well as his own after Kivi injured his knee at an airport during winter break.
The three 2012 Toshiba/ NSTA ExploraVision honorable mentions were announced on Thursday, March 1, along with the regional winners. Two groups, consisting of sophomores Diana Dmitrichenko, Jason Huang, Eric Luo, and Mark Perelmuter (“A Non-Radioac- tive Nuclear Reactor Based on Aneutronic Fusion of Lithium”) and sophomores William Aung, Edric Huang, Youbin Kim, and Julie Zhu (“Using Nanowires and Graphene Membranes to Refine Artificial Photosynthe- sis”) were sponsored by Dr. Li, and a third group of sophomores, Allyson Ho, Kahmun Lo, Vera Pertsovskaya, and Gloria Wu (“NaviSound”) was sponsored by Daves.
Dmitrichenko’s project explored designs of a nuclear reactor that would use nuclear fusion, rather than fission, which poses a larger threat to the surrounding environment. “Since I took Physics last year, I worked on something related to physics. With what happened in Japan, fission reactors aren’t seen as that reliable anymore, so [we] decided to go with nuclear fusion because it’s safer,” Dmitrichenko said.
“Using Nanowires and Graphene Membranes to Refine Artificial Photosynthesis” involves the use of artificial photosynthesis as a potential alternative to the harmful fossil fuels used today, in order to prevent “the great ecological back- lashes that the fossil fuels can cause in nature and society’s carbon footprint on the Earth’s surface.” The project involves “technology that enhances the efficiency, both technologically and in regards to cost, of current artificial photosynthesis techniques. This new technology incorporates the usage of TiO2 nanowires assembled on to a graphene membrane with engineered atomic pores. While the TiO2 nanowires act as a premier photocatalyst, the graphene membrane facilitates a flow of protons soon to become hydrogen fuel,” according to the project abstract.
Navisound is a device that will allow the blind to use sound to recreate images and space. By using existing floor plans and assigning distinct sounds to each feature of a building, such as walls, specific rooms, and stairs, an audio map is generated with which the user can determine an object’s location via changes in loudness and pitch. The user may also memorize the building’s main layout after navigating through the virtual replica to practice. Stored as a mobile application, it would serve as an alternative to bulky devices and expensive implants by taking advantage of the enhanced hearing abilities that the sightless develop, and with “such a product that is not conspicuous and cheap, the sightless will be able to have the freedom of movement,” according to the “Navisound” abstract.
Although these three projects received honorable mentions, the number of recognized projects submitted by Stuyvesant was significantly smaller than the 14 honorable mentions and one regional winner project last year.
“The honors students are required to submit a project, and a few students in [other chemistry classes] do it too. If more students participate, maybe we would have more projects recognized,” Dr. Li said.
Daves agrees. “In truth, we had fewer people enter the project. Last year I had many kids in my Regents Chemistry classes opt to enter the [ExploraVision competition]. This year I did the same, but I had a very few people enter. This year, I had about ten entries whereas last year, I had close to 45 kids,” she said.
“The other schools had strong projects too,” Dmitrichenko said. “But it could also be because lack of sufficient time. It was difficult to come up with a good research paper in just a few months.”
“The process was very stressful no doubt, always having to meet the deadlines and doing this while doing the rest of our homework was definitely hard to handle at times, but we pulled it off,” Zhu said in an email interview. “Being an honorable mention just shows that all our hard work has paid off and after a few months of discussing our topic and writing, something special has come out of it.”