LI duo takes top spot in Spellman clean-tech contest

Cell mates: Ray Ann Havasy (left), director of The Center for Science Teaching & Learning, and Spellman HV Electronics President Loren Skeist (right) congratulate Danielle Kelly and Audrey Shine, winners of the the 2018 Spellman HV Electronics Clean Tech Competition.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A Long Island team has taken top honors in a global clean-tech competition for forward-thinking high schoolers.

Featuring teams from across the United States and as far afield as Peru, Ireland, Australia and Singapore, the 2018 Spellman HV Electronics Clean Tech Competition was designed to promote STEM concepts (for science, technology, engineering and mathematics) while challenging participants to tackle real-world environmental challenges.

The seventh-annual international brain-a-thon, sponsored by Hauppauge-based Spellman High Voltage Electronics Corp., wrapped up July 12 at Stony Brook University, with four teams from the United States, three from Singapore and one each from Peru, Ireland and Australia strutting their STEM stuff.

First place, and its $10,000 prize, when to the team of Danielle Kelly, representing the Friends Academy in Locust Valley, and Audrey Shine, a student at Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School, whose project focused on enhancing the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells.

In addition to snagging that chunky monetary award, the winners have earned a chance to present their work to the World Congress on Climate Change, a gathering of elite scientists, researchers and graduate students scheduled for September in Rome.

The winning project, titled “Application of Graphene Oxide/Amine Functionalized Graphene Oxide onto Polymer Electrolyte Membranes and Electrodes to Optimize Hydrogen Fuel Cell Performance,” focused on improving hydrogen fuel cell performance with the addition of graphene oxide, a chemically exfoliated (and much cheaper) alternative to graphite oxide, which is very good at stabilizing emulsion systems but difficult and expensive to produce.

Loren Skeist: High-voltage optimism.

Shine, who also took top honors in the 2017 Spellman HV Electronics Clean Tech Competition, noted the annual contest is “more than just a competition.”

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to collaborate with young scientists around the globe,” she said this week. “I am incredibly honored and grateful to receive the top award.”

Her teammate in the 2018 competition agreed that the international contest was “an amazing opportunity” to build alliances with the top scientists of tomorrow.

“Winning was incredible … but the true value of the experience was collaborating internationally to solve the pressing and universal issue of climate change,” Kelly said.

Second place in the 2018 competition went to Benjamin Liao of California, who earned $7,500 for his efforts to change the colors of thermochromic roof coatings, which are used to capture or reflect the energy of the sun.

Elise Ireland, a teenager from the Republic of Ireland, captured third place ($5,000) for a project using rainwater flowing through downspouts to generate electricity.

The 10 international finalist teams that traveled to SBU for the final round beat out a “record number” of competitors, according to Spellman HV Electronics, a leading provider of high-performance, custom and standard DC high-voltage power converters.

The Hauppauge manufacturer counted a total of 550 teams from 39 countries – numbers that “make me optimistic about the future, not only of science, but of our planet,” according to Spellman HV Electronics President Loren Skeist.

“Solving the challenges of our environment will require creative and innovative solutions from everywhere around the world,” Skeist said in a statement. “The innovative thinking and dedication of these young people is needed now more than ever.”

The 2018 Spellman High Voltage Electronics Clean Tech Competition was hosted and managed by the Rockville Centre-based Center for Science Teaching & Learning, a 501(C)3 nonprofit organization on a mission to encourage science literacy in children and adults.

Ray Ann Havasy, director of the CSTL, dubbed the finalists and all of the international participants in the 2018 competition “a shining example of the importance and the potential of STEM.”

“All of the students who participated in the finals demonstrated their creativity and understanding of STEM principals,” Havasy said Tuesday. “With Spellman HV Electronics, we continue to show government leaders, educators, parents and the business community the importance of STEM and the need to embrace new STEM education initiatives.”


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