Category Archives: student competitions

The Veritas Homeschoolers’ Future City essay

Veritas Homeschoolers
Teacher: Mary Ann Ekstrom
Engineer Mentor: Ken Ekstrom

One of the most critical issues facing Taiwan during the early 21st century was the country’s reliance upon imported energy.  Due to minimal energy sources, Taiwan received 98% of its energy from China.  For this reason, great needs existed for Taiwan to develop its own energy resources and to establish aggressive conservation and efficiency standards.  To ensure the sustainability of its people, and the security of their nation, nuclear engineers from Xiwang, Taiwan, have developed a safe, efficient, form of energy called “HBfuse.”

With the ability to generate power without the radioactive waste of nuclear fission, Xiwang’s primary energy source, HBfuse, consists of the aneutronic fusion of hydrogen and boron fuels.  First researched in the United States during the early 21st century by Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, and tested at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Xiwang’s nuclear engineers have developed decentralized reactors for commercial use.

HBfuse uses dense plasma focus reactors, made up of two cylindrical beryllium copper electrodes set inside each other, inside a vacuum chamber filled with low-pressure gas. A blast of electricity from an energy storage device, called a capacitor bank, is released across the electrodes. The extreme current flows from the outside electrode to the inner electrode, through the low pressure gas, last just over a few millionths of a second. As the current heats the gas, it develops a powerful magnetic field.  The current molds itself into a slim coating of blazing, electrically-conducting plasma gas. Next, the plasma enters the end of the inner electrode, where the magnetic fields create an electric field. An electron beam heats the plasma to an unprecedented temperature, 100 times hotter than the center of the sun. The astonishing temperature created is approximately 2 billion degrees Celsius.

The benefits of aneutronic fusion are many.  Both nuclear fission and conventional neutronic fusion generates heat requiring turning water to steam in order to spin turbines to generate electricity.  In contrast, aneutronic fusion creates electricity directly.  This is due to the positively charged helium ions, which create neutron-free nuclear fusion.  Since electricity is created directly, valuable land which would otherwise be used to house large power plants, can now be conserved.   Costs associated with building and running a power plant are saved along with the water that would have been needed for a conventional power plant.  In addition, aneutronic fusion does not produce neutrons as a product of the reaction.  This is unlike nuclear fission, where a neutron splits a large atom into smaller atoms, releasing more neutrons for a radioactive chain reaction.  Nuclear fission also has many concerns, such as nuclear proliferation and containment.  In contrast to conventional neutronic fusion, aneutronic fusion does not involve the fusion of deuterium and tritium.  Tritium is in short supply, is radioactive, and can be used in nuclear weapons. Non-radioactive helium gas is the only “waste product” from HBfuse. Furthermore, the materials to create hydrogen-boron fuels are common. Hydrogen comes from water, and boron can be extracted from natural sources such as sea water.  HBfuse is an amazing source of safe, radiation free, and clean energy.

Each HBfuse reactor consists of a 5 megawatt system, producing enough energy to power 1,000 homes.  Compact in size, HBfuse reactors are so small, they take up no more space than a standard two-car garage.  Due to energy efficiency, many family units live in large residential towers.  These towers each have an HBfuse reactor adjacent to them, while our communities with single family homes have 2 reactors per community.

Xiwang chemical engineers and researchers have created revolutionary bio-fuels from waste rice straw. Rice is the number one crop grown in Taiwan. After harvesting the grain, rice straw is left behind. Instead of going to waste, the material is turned into bio-fuel. This inventive fuel provides a net energy gain, which means that the energy used to harvest it is less than the amount of energy produced. In addition, rice straw is produced without reducing food supplies.

Making wise use of Xiwang’s unique natural resources, additional energy is provided by wind, geothermal, and solar power.  Due to Xiwang’s coastal location, harnessing energy from the ocean was considered.  However, after considering the environmental impact that wave, tidal, and deep ocean turbines might have on marine life, the decision was made to omit all forms of ocean energy.

Sustainable energy in Taiwan is transmitted via computational systems thinking machines(CSTMs), advanced smart grids created by Xiwang’s electrical, IT, and telecom engineers.  These grids provide excellent two-way communication between Xiwang’s energy sources and its energy consumers.  In order to handle excess energy within the grid, large scale power storage, using technologically advanced nanomaterial batteries, consisting of sodium and potassium water based electrolytes, are used.  For additional energy storage, pumped-storage plants, producing hydroelectricity, enable widespread use of renewable power. Excess energy produced in Xiwang is sold to neighboring China, and transmitted through submarine cables.

Due to increased energy demands, Xiwang’s software engineers, electrical engineers, scientists, and researchers are strongly committed to energy conservation, efficiency, awareness, and education. Through the use of superior energy management, Xiwang’s electrical engineers regularly measures and tracks the energy performances of all operations, and have implemented steps to increase energy efficiency.

With the use of energy monitoring dashboards and software, Xiwang’s residents are now able to successfully manage their own energy.  Efficient 4th Generation Platinum LEED buildings conserve natural resources while protecting Xiwang’s environment.  Water conservation and recycling, along with advanced energy efficient appliances, and walking to work helps Xiwang’s residents to conserve energy and use very little fuel as well as maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Due to the dedication of Xiwang’s engineers, Taiwan is no longer reliant upon other countries for its energy needs.  Now a world leader in research and development, sustainability, and conservation, Xiwang is a proud example of what can be achieved when an entire community works together to make a better, safer tomorrow.

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City of Xiwang takes first in Future City

Veritas Homeschoolers won 1st place in the regional Future City Competition at the finals on Saturday, Jan. 28.

Front row: (from left) Jesse Friedman, Cambrie Hickman, Rachel Fisher, and Timothy Graunke. Back row: (from left) Guest speaker Randii Wessen, Ken Ekstrom and Mary Ann Ekstrom.

Students Jesse Friedman, project manager, Cambrie Hickman, Rachel Fisher and Timothy Fraunke  created the City of Xiwang – City of Hope in Taiwanese – an island off the coast of Taiwan in the year 2162. Their display included a monorail-type system with light up balls that moved around the perimeter of the city, a marina complete with fish inside and an entire underground view of systems and energy sources.

The students were guided by engineer mentor Ken Ekstrom and teacher and sponsor Mary Ann Ekstrom, who said the kids learned a lot through their participation in the competition.

“At this point we will begin preparing for the national competition by rethinking some of the questions they were asked by all the judges, considering other questions that may be raised or asked and talking with several energy experts,” Mary Ann said in a press release.

For the competition, each student group was required to write a 1,000-word essay describing their use of an alternate energy source that would generate electric power for their city without depleting natural resources. They then gave a presentation to judges.

Link to full essay

Required to use an alternate energy source, these students chose to use hydrogen boron fusion or HB fuse. The students also explained how solar power is used for energy and light. Rooftop gardens are aesthetically pleasing as well as practical for absorbing heat and all extra energy is sold to China through an underwater cable. They also say the city also has “smart buildings” equipped with advanced communication systems and an extensive amount of night life and activities.

Veritas homeschoolers were asked, “Why use solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels and fusion as energy sources?” To this they replied that these were all readily available and could be used as backups if an energy source failed.

Garden Lakes Elementary won 2nd place, Canyon Breeze Elementary were 3rd, Colonel Smith Middle School received a 4th place award and Orangedale Junior High won 5th place. Pictures of the 2nd through 5th place winning groups were taken by volunteer and pro-photographer John Jacoby, and can be seen in his online gallery. — Amy Vogelsang

Future Cities, 3-D models and aliens

Story and photos by Amy Vogelsang

Student-built 3-D models of cities are on display until 5pm today and during final events Saturday as part of the Future City Competition Arizona Region.

The competition introduces students to engineering as teams design and build their versions of  urban life in the future. Sponsored by the National Engineers Week Committee, the Future City Program takes place in more than 30 regions.

Part of the competition requires students to build three-dimensional models of their proposed cities. Students are challenged to build models within restricted measurements and must include one moving part. The amount spent on the project must not exceed $100.

Since the start of this competition 15 years ago, the Arizona region is the only one to offer a free public exhibition of the models. The models have been on display all week at Phoenix Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix. Hours are 9am to 5pm and there is no charge to attend.

“It is interesting to see how the student models have evolved over this time,” region PIO Vi Brown said in a press release. “Models were very simplistic in design the first few years. However, as the schools and teachers became more experienced with the competition’s requirements, I’ve noticed more attention to details and creativity. The students’ models of today definitely reflect a more futuristic looks.”

The student groups who created the displays will each give presentations and have their work judged at the Future City finals, on Saturday, Jan. 28 at ASU Preparatory Academy, 735 E. Fillmore in Phoenix. The Arizona Region program will begin at 8 a.m. The competition is free and open to the public.

Bringing with him a wealth of knowledge about Mars and a distinct opinion on aliens, Randii Wessen, deputy manager for the Project Formulation Office at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will be the featured guest speaker.

Wessen is an astronautics systems engineer working in the field of planetary explosion, an experimental economist and author. He is currently working on the next Mars Rover Project at JPL, and will be sharing his knowledge with middle school students and parents in order to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Wessen will work with students to build meteors using dry ice, then discuss the next Mars Rover and space exploration at lunch. In the afternoon he will be a judge for the competition finals, helping to select a first place team for the region.

“Given his wealth of knowledge, infectious humor and a love of working with youth, we are excited to have Dr. Wessen,” Arizona Region Coordinator Mike Andrews said in a press release.