Junior Matt Tompkins and senior Carlie Schulter attended the second annual White House Science Fair in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday with their coach, Ed Barker. They were among 40 teams invited by the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy to attend the event.
“It’s extremely difficult to get into the White House Science Fair,” said Barker, an electrical engineer with HI Solutions in Kennesaw who has worked with the team for the last seven years. “The reason we got picked was because we were part of the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam, which includes only 14 teams in the country, and of those, only two teams were picked as exhibitors.”
The two students were selected to display their team’s project, a remotely operated oil removal watercraft designed and built with funds from a $10,000 grant the school received in 2010.
Barker said the team, which consists of about 20 Kell students, has been working on the project for the last year.
Schulter, who joined the team while still an eighth-grader at Palmer Middle, said the robot is an amphibious, remotely operated vehicle that collects oil in shallow waters and estuaries. Most of the technologies for cleaning up oil in the open ocean are too big to be used in those hard-to-reach places, but their team’s robot is smaller, she said.
The team named the 7-foot long, 4-foot wide robot ORCA, which stands for Oil Recovery and Capture.
Tompkins, who has been on the team since he was a freshman, said the concept for the robot won their team the grant and the invitation to the White House.
“It was really fun,” he said. “I got to meet a bunch of people who gave us a different perspective on our entire project.”
Throughout the day, Tompkins and Schulter got to see a speech by President Barack Obama and met the heads of NASA, NOAA and the National Science Foundation and Bill Nye, “The Science Guy.”
“The president didn’t get to see every exhibit and didn’t get to see every student, so (Tompkins and Schulter) didn’t get to talk to him one-on-one, but they got to talk to a lot of other important people,” Barker said.
The students and Barker shipped the robot to Washington last Thursday, flew up there Monday and will return to Georgia tonight.