The inaugural year of the ComEd HFS Scholars STEM Program and Energy Academy concluded this weekend with student project presentations and an award ceremony recognizing the top three teams. Winning criteria for student prototypes in the competition included the potential to deliver community benefits related to health, safety, sustainability, connectedness, mobility, efficiency and education.
Winning students among the 50 participating freshmen were Austin Ayite, Kamron Brown, Bryce Choice and Chris Iwuoha. They were awarded the top prize of $2,000 for their innovative technology concept, Smart Pathways. Smart Pathways was designed to light pathways, more energy efficiently, through motion sensors and light dimming capabilities. The Smart Pathways prototype also included safety features such as tracking movement through its light sensors.
ComEd’s HFS Scholars STEM Program and Energy Academy is a four-year educational program connecting socioeconomically disadvantaged high school students to STEM subjects specifically related to the energy industry. Since its kickoff in December, students have been taking part in an immersive experience, learning the fundamentals of energy, smart city technologies and sustainability, and developing smart grid prototypes with professional engineer mentors.
“While the partnership we’ve built with HFS Chicago Scholars offers its students the unique opportunity to learn about the exciting future of energy, it also grants us the opportunity to learn from these bright students,” said Shay Bahramira, vice president of Engineering and Smart Grid at ComEd. “We look forward to building upon this partnership and to see these freshmen students grow over the course of their high school career, as they all achieved excellence over the past five months.”
Mia Cadichon, Dulce Chavez, Ashley Farinango, Dayanara Orellana, Luz Perez and Amanda Zavala won second place and were awarded $1,250. The team developed an energy efficient Smart Charger designed to charge phones while reducing the chance of overheating and/or battery explosions by shutting off once the phone reaches 100 percent battery power.
Saul Garcia, Edgar Mijarez, Leslie Ortega, Israel Ramos and Edgar Valadez placed in third place and received a prize of $750 for developing a Smart Carbon Dioxide Detector. The detector was designed to improve air quality and emergency response times in regard to carbon dioxide emissions. The prototype included integrating sensors into existing technology to sense the amount of carbon dioxide in the air as well as assist in emergency response by rerouting GPS systems and working with traffic signals to route traffic away from dangerous areas.
“ComEd has been a fantastic partner for over 10 years,” said Mike Kennelly, founder and chairman of HFS Chicago Scholars. “They launched this program this year, and it’s been great for our freshmen scholars — learning scientific concepts from ComEd’s scientists and engineers and how to apply them. But more than anything, seeing them have a lot of fun along the way.”
Other student prototypes ranged from smart outlets, which help reduce excess energy usage, and smart canes, which help the sight impaired, to technology that would use precipitation as an energy source to generate electricity and as a water source by filtering the water for home appliance usage.
The HFS Scholars STEM Program and Energy Academy is part of ComEd’s Community of the Future in Bronzeville, a collaborative effort of local residents and ComEd to use smart grid technologies to create a connected, green and resilient community as well as enhance people’s everyday lives. Additional pilots of ComEd’s Community of the Future include a microgrid that enhances the security and resiliency of the electric system; an electric vehicle transportation service for seniors; a community energy storage pilot; off-grid renewable lighting structures; and sensor-based technologies that are being piloted with nearby Illinois Tech. The Community of the Future also features STEM education programs for Bronzeville and Chicago-area high school students who are applying microprocessor technology to design solutions that address community needs and enhance quality of life.