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The work of a high-rise window washer is perilous. Though accidents are infrequent, a ladder or scaffolding failure will leave a cleaner dangling high above city streets. Sydney, Australia teen Oliver Nicholls put his mind to devising a way to keep skyscraper windows sparkling that would not require workers with Spiderman skills.

Nicholls invented a window-washing robot for use on commercial buildings. His robot, a flying device much like a drone, is outfitted with a high-powered spray nozzle and rotating scrubbers. He designed the cleaner to be tethered to a building’s rooftop and to withstand up to 28 MPH winds.

The cost of Nicholls robot cleaner comes in at $2,300, offering building owners significant savings over the cost of traditional window cleaning methods. The design earned Nicholls First Place and a $75,000 award in the 2018 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair held May 13 – 18, 2018 in Pittsburgh. The second and third place winners focused on green energy solutions.

Can molasses and used tea leaves replace gold and platinum? They do with Meghana Bollimpalli’s entry in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Bollimpalli, a student at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, developed a way to synthesis carbon-based materials so they could replace expensive metals in the production of electrodes for supercapacitors. In a world with increasing demands for energy, Bollimpalli’s work offers the potential of greatly lowering the cost of storing electricity. For her work, the 17-year-old was one of two Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award winners.

The second Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award went to Dhruvik Parikh of Bothell, Washington. The 18-year-old developed an ion exchange membrane that exceeds by 10 times the conductivity of the industry’s standard yet is produced at a lower cost. He designed his composite membrane to be used in industrial-grade batteries that store wind- and solar-generated energy for later use. The Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award winners were each awarded $50,000 as the first and second runners-up in the competition.

Nearly 1,800 finalists from 80 countries, regions and territories competed in the Intel competition. The Intel ISEF is the largest pre-college science competition in the world offering winners nearly $5 million in prizes and scholarships. The competition focuses on research and inventions to solve real-world problems.

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