WALLENPAUPACK - In an effort to find a solution to a problem, 15 students from Wallenpaupack Area High School received a $9,600 grant from the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam initiative in November to construct their lake wave generator.

With the financial support from Lemelson-MIT, an additional $2,000 grant from PPL Electric and direction from mentors, the students have been working on a generator that will use the waves of Lake Wallenpaupack to power lights on the docks around the lake. Thursday, the inventors who are part of the district’s gifted student program, presented their progress in the high school’s library.

••• Unparalled opportunity

To produce the intensive project, the students created advisory teams to help their process and Thursday, Gwen Jones a junior, said their “unparalleled opportunity,” will enable the students to invent the Lake Wave Dock Electric Generator since electricity is not permitted on the docks.

Students from the different committees spoke about their roles in the project and what they have been doing. But, all of the students agreed that a huge part of their success has come from communicating with their mentors. One of them is Paul Fucile, the senior engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic in Massachusetts. After talking with Fucile, a senior, Adam Haig said the students were intimidated. Haig explained that Fucile gave the team a lot of in-depth information, but his suggestions were helpful. Aside from looking at ways to generate electricity, Haig said Fucile also taught the students how to calculate power output and efficiencies with the system the team built.

The students’ advisor and a teacher in the high school, Gene Schultz said the mentors have really challenged the students, which has made the experience a high level project. Fucile, Schultz said, is trying to get the students to collect scientific data and really understand all that they are doing. With Fucile’s help, Schultz said the students are learning things they had never been exposed to before.

••• Career exploration

An additional asset of this project, Schultz said, is that it is an opportunity for the students to consider potential careers for themselves, as they focus on their individual roles in the overall production of the wave generator.
Since Fucile is in Massachusetts, the students have conversed with him through video conferences. A sophomore, Walter Wilson said those meetings were very important, because the students learned a lot, as Fucile gave the students several good ideas. Haig added that Fucile would tell the students only so much, making the students ultimately find the answer themselves.

Looking to the future, Schultz said it is time for the students to move away from the model and actually start building a devise that will go on a dock. Because of the season, he said the team is hoping to find a local pool since the lake is still frozen.

From the $9,600 grant from Lemelson-MIT, a junior, Sarah Ricupero reported at the meeting, that the students have spent $3,484.64. Schultz said the money has gone fast as the students have made mistakes by purchasing equipment that didn’t work. That, he said, is part of the experience. In addition, he said Lemelson-MIT encourages students to use the money they are awarded.

By the end of Christmas vacation, it was suggested that the team should have a test method in place. This did not occur though, the team said, because of the number of snow days that has affected their schedule. Meanwhile, the team has made changes to their generator.     

••• Disagreements positive

At some points, the team said there have been some disagreements, which freshman, Rhiannon Bogart-Mandrik said has been an important lesson for the students. She explained that the disagreements have helped the students realize that things don’t always work out the way one hopes and delays happen. Yet, she said, “we made huge progress,” once the issues were fixed.

At this time, the students are actually generating more electricity than they need, said freshman, Sebastian Aparicio. With the additional power, Haig said it could allow the students to light the dock more. Using LED lights, he said the lights work best because they require less electricity.

As the team reaches new milestones, Bogart-Mandrik said it is, “really rewarding,” because the students are doing it together. She acknowledged that the students may have different ideas, but together they are making the generator happen. As the team approached each milestone, Jones said she was concerned, but now she feels the team will “rise to the occasion,” and meet the team’s deadline.  

With four months remaining, some students said they feel good where their generator is at, while others weren’t so sure. A freshman, Kristen Denniston said with the progress of the wave tank, she has more confidence. Haig said dealing with the circuit took a lot of their time, but now they have conquered that, and so the team is focusing on programming and things are moving along.

Originally, Schultz said the design was faulty because the team was trying to work inexpensively by using wood and Plexiglas. That was a problem, he explained, because it’s hard to make things waterproof. Plus, the team wanted something they could design and build themselves, which they did in the school’s wood shop.

••• Thankful for mentors

Haig said he is very proud of the generator and wants people to know what the team is doing. Haig said he is thankful to Fucile and Schultz. He explained and his teammates agreed, that Schultz presents the students with a lot of opportunities. Throughout high school, Haig said by participating in the competitions Schultz has offered, he has realized that working in a group is important. Often, Haig said Schultz pushes the students, especially with the deadline quickly approaching. Laughing, Haig said Schultz is more afraid of the deadline than the students are.

Of Schultz’s support, Bogart-Mandrik said he expects the students to do well and because of the tools and knowledge he gives the students, they are able to succeed.

Schultz said everything is going great, in part because of how the students challenged themselves with the project. In fact, he said the students are meeting the high expectations set forth by Fucile. The intensity of the project, Schultz said is more than he expected because of the time requirements. Soon, the students will be working four to five nights a week because the deadline is so close.

The students will start doing fundraisers in coming weeks, as they would like to raise $1,500 to $2,000 in order for the entire team to go to Eureka Fest in Montreal, since MIT pays for six of the students and PPL’s grant will help with three students. For one fundraiser, the students plan on selling tee-shirts and the ad space on them, thanks to a local printer who has offered to donate and print the shirts for free.

To keep the public informed, the students created a blog http://wallenpaupackinventeams.blogspot.com/, a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Paupackwaves and a Twitter account, https://twitter.com/PaupackWaves.