Ann Makosinski was just another teenager with another science project when she joined her local science fair in Victoria, Canada, last year. Her invention, a flashlight that is powered solely from hand heat, took second place at the competition.
Ann, 16, and her parents, both of whom are HAM radio operators and like to fiddle with electronics, were satisfied with that result.
“It’s a very simple project,” said Arthur Makosinski, Ann’s father. “It has four electrical components. Let’s move on and do something different.”
But had Ann left her project in Victoria, situated just 25 miles north of Washington State, the world may have missed out on a light source that doesn’t use batteries, solar power or wind energy.
Think about that for a moment: a flashlight that shines for as long as you hold onto it. No more scrambling for and chucking away AA batteries. It could have an immediate impact on more than 1.2 billion people — one-fifth of the world’s population — who, according to the World Bank, lack regular access to electricity.
Stunningly, no one on record has thought to use thermoelectric technology to power a flashlight. But for Ann, peltier tiles, which produce an electrical current when opposite sides are heated and cooled at the same time, were a convenient solution to a friend’s study problem.
Two years ago, Ann, who is half-Filipino, was corresponding with a friend of hers in the Philippines who didn’t have electricity. According to Ann, her friend couldn’t complete her homework and was failing in school.
“That was the inspiration for my project.” said Ann, “I just wanted to help my friend in the Philippines and my flashlight was a possible solution.”
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