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B.C. teen’s ‘Hollow Flashlight’ project makes Google Science Fair finals

15-year-old Ann Makosinski  seen here with her project called "The Hollow Flashlight.".
15-year-old Ann Makosinski seen here with her project called "The Hollow Flashlight.". Screenshot/YouTube

UPDATE: Makosinski won in her category.

TORONTO – It’s a good thing 15-year-old Ann Makosinski didn’t let homework stand in the way of submitting her human-powered flashlight to Google’s 2013 Science Fair, because the B.C. native’s project has been selected as one of 15 final projects.

Makosinski, who lives in Victoria, B.C., will be the only Canadian to fly to Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters to present her science project to a panel of international scientists.

“I am in absolute shock – I didn’t expect this,” Makosinski told Global News Thursday, shortly after Google announced the finalists on its official blog.

She noted that she almost didn’t make the submission deadline for the global science fair, due to mounting homework and a local science fair project she had already committed to.

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Just 45 minutes before Google’s deadline she submitted her project – a flashlight that runs solely on the heat of the human hand.

“I’m really proud to represent my country,” said Makosinski.

Makosinski’s project – called the “Hollow Flashlight” – is a fully-functioning flashlight that runs without batteries or moving parts and is capable of producing 5.4 mW at five foot candles of brightness.

The design uses four Peltier tiles – one side is heated with the palm of the hand, while the other is cooled by the ambient air surrounding it, creating electricity.

Using a hollow aluminum tube, the design allows air to pass freely through the flashlight – cooling one side of the tiles, while the users hand heats the opposite side.

Makosinski provides a full description of the science behind her flashlight in a YouTube video:

The teen, who has been entering the Vancouver Island Science Fair since she was 11 years old, became interested in the idea of harvesting surplus energy after realizing that humans are a source of untapped energy.

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“We’re like 100-watt walking light bulbs,” explained Makosinski.

Last year, the teen went to the Canada Wide Science Fair with a similar project called “The Piezoelectric Flashlight.”

The Hollow Flashlight joins the likes of other incredible science projects in Google’s science fair, including a bio-inspired propulsion system for underwater vehicles, a multi-step system for the early diagnosis of melanoma cases and a “Rapid Quantum Dot Solar Cell Optimization” system.

What’s more amazing is that the participants range in age from 13 to 18 years old.

The 15 final projects chosen by Google include teams and individuals from countries including Russia, Australia, Singapore, India and the U.S.

“The caliber, ingenuity and diversity of this year’s projects is a testament to the fact that young minds really can produce world-changing ideas,” read Google’s official blog post.

Makosinski said she is fairly nervous about the prospect of presenting her project to a panel of scientists, but noted she was very excited to see Google’s headquarters and pick the brains of some of the other participants.

As for her future in science, Makosinski – currently in Grade 10 – said she hasn’t yet decided what she will specialize in when she heads to university – but she thinks the coming months will be very telling of her decision.

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“I guess I’m headed in that path, but I can’t tell you what area I’m looking into. My parents said I have to decide pretty soon,” the teen laughed.

The Grand Prize winner of the Google Science Fair will win a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands with National Geographic Expeditions, $50,000 in scholarship funding and, of course, bragging rights.

Though the judges will pick the winning projects, the public is encouraged to vote for the “Inspired Idea Award,” which comes with a prize of $10,000 to develop their project.