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West Linn team brings home bronze


Three WLHS seniors designed a system to generate and store energy from rainfall

A trio of students from West Linn High School won a bronze medal and a $150 prize in the engineering category at the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering and Environment Project (ISWEEEP) competition, held in Houston from May 8 to 13. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Zoe Maxwell, Clara Altimus and Arianna Hall won a bronze award at the ISWEEEP competition in Houston on May 12.

Clara Altimus, Arianna Hall and Zoe Maxwell were honored for their science project, “Application of a Rain-Powered Water Wheel for Supplementing Residential Energy Generation.”

“We generated energy from rainfall utilizing our hand-built and originally designed water wheel,” Hall said. “The system sits under a downspout, so when it begins raining the rain collects in the gutter as potential energy, then travels down the downspout as kinetic energy and finally turns our water wheel to make mechanical energy (that is) stored in a battery.”

“The whole system is designed to sit next to a house under a gutter and ... supplement the energy generation to make for a greener output,” Altemus said.

The team started planning the project in the fall of 2011, after deciding they wanted to explore renewable resources in an area, engineering, where they had little experience.

“Basically,” Altimus said, “we sat together around a table staring out the window into a rainy and cold Portland and decided to research energy using the rain.”

The project qualified for ISWEEEP after the regional Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) science fair at the high school. Though not as well known as the ISEF competition, ISWEEEP is gaining notice.

“ISWEEEP is becoming a very highly regarded international fair,” said Amy Schauer, CREST program coordinator. She served as a mentor, with West Linn physics teacher Shawn McDevitt, to Hall, Altimus and Maxwell.

“It’s much newer than ISEF and is limited in its scope because it’s focused on sustainability. That’s precisely the reason we were excited about our students participating,” Schauer said.

The girls agreed that qualifying for the competition was their first goal, so they felt like winners even before the competition began. Their experience in Houston, where they met young scientists and researchers from 40 states and 62 countries, was a bonus.

“We met people from all over the world,” said Maxwell, “and had another chance to share our ideas and listen to people who were just as passionate about science as we are.”

The girls plan to pursue their passion for learning separately next year. Altimus will be attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where she plans to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in occupational therapy in a four-and-a-half-year program.

Hall plans to attend Oregon State University, where she will study education and integrated sciences. Maxwell will head to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., where she plans to major in biology with a neuroscience concentration.