Low-cost, self-driving cars, high-speed phone chargers and simulated galaxies were among the winning ideas to emerge from US computer-chip maker Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair, held last week in Phoenix, Arizona.
The competition – the world’s largest high-school science research contest – awarded the top prize of $75,000 to 19-year-old Romanian student Ionut Budisteanu, for using artificial intelligence to create a viable model for a low-cost, self-driving car. The $4,000 vehicle can detect traffic lanes and curbs, along with the real-time position of the car.
Budisteanu based his research on internet giant Google’s ongoing project to develop a self-driving car (read more in Autonomous Autos), calculating that the most expensive component in Google’s car was the high-resolution 3D radar system used to orientate the car in its surroundings. He replaced this system with webcams and a low-resolution radar, which worked perfectly in 47 out of 50 simulations.
Californian teenager Eesha Khare won the $50,000 runner-up prize for her supercharger device that could fit into a mobile phone battery, allowing it to charge fully within 30 seconds. Khare said she was responding to the need for more efficient energy-storage technology to power portable electronics, and plans to continue her research when she begins her studies at Harvard University later this year.
Henry Lin, a 17-year-old from Louisiana, also won the runner-up prize for simulating thousands of galaxy clusters – providing scientists with valuable new data on the workings of the universe.