Skip to Content
MIT News magazine

Tomorrow, the World

High-school inventors take on the energy crisis.
October 15, 2007

“Saving the globe one french fry at a time,” proclaimed a sticker inside the biodiesel-fueled bus that brought a team of student inventors from New Hampshire to the Stata Center for the 2007 InvenTeams Odyssey this June. The Odyssey is a public showcase for the work of high-school inventors. Grants from the ­Lemelson-MIT program, which works to encourage young inventors, support the students’ projects.

At the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams Odyssey at MIT, high-school students from Merrimack, NH, explain plans for a solar-powered biodiesel processor. The Merrimack students arrived in an old U.S. Air Force bus that runs on up to 50 percent biodiesel.

Small changes that could lead to big energy savings were a theme at the Odyssey, where a quarter of the teams concentrated on alternative energy technologies.

“Once you get past the smell of ­diesel, you can actually smell the french fries,” said Jess Montminy, a recent graduate of Merrimack High School, standing behind her team’s idling bus. The team runs the old U.S. Air Force bus on up to 50 percent biodiesel and plans to test-run it on 100 percent bio­diesel this fall. The students built a processor that produces biodiesel from used fry oil, methanol, and a hydroxide base. The processor’s battery will eventually be solar powered. The students have further reduced the bus’s impact on the environment by making small adjustments, such as removing a fuel-­hogging AC unit.

The team from Divine Child High School in Dearborn, MI, designed a system that converts a bicyclist’s ­muscle power into battery power for devices with USB capability. The students had fun with the design process. Jeff Brookins, a recent Divine Child graduate, said they bought an Insignia MP3 player with the full warranty in case they blew it out. By the time they got to the Odyssey, however, their confidence had grown: recent graduate C. J. Demmer used his personal iPod to demonstrate the system.

Pedaling furiously on a bicycle in a stand, Demmer stopped only to gulp down glasses of water. Cords sprouting from the bicycle’s frame were connected to a laptop on a nearby table. “I’ve already charged my iPod and my cell phone,” he said. “What’s next?”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.