Herin Kang, a eighth grader at Stratford School’s San Jose Middle School, recently took first place in the Technology category of the Broadcom MASTERs (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) competition. She was selected out of the 30 finalists from around the country for her project “Energy Efficient Oxygen Generator Using Micro Algae as an Alternative to Window Ventilation.”
“It’s a simple concept, really,” Herin told us when we interviewed her before the final round of competition. She used two sizes of transparent containers with an air pump and algae to build models of her oxygen generator. To test the device, she built a simulator room with a removable lid. She then took baseline measurements in a larger room and measured carbon dioxide levels after one or two people had slept there with and without the device. Her prototype worked well to bring the levels of carbon dioxide down.
So, how did Herin come up with an idea to create an Energy Efficient Oxygen Generator?
Herin suffers from seasonal allergies. During one particularly difficult allergy season, she found herself frustrated with making the choice between opening the window for fresh air and feeling the effects of her allergies. Instead of breathing the stale, stuffy air inside, she wondered how she could ventilate a room without opening a window.
Herin knew that her idea could help more people than just those who suffered from seasonal allergies. On a larger scale, she believed her idea could help those who live in the most polluted places in the world get fresh air without endangering their health.
For more than a year, Herin worked on developing and modeling her project. She created a prototype for the Broadcom MASTERs competition and plans to eventually build a full-scale version with additional resources.
For Herin, the most challenging part of the project was dealing with algae, which is in fact, alive. She conducted research on ways to control the density of algae in a cost efficient way as well as how to control airflow. Her favorite part of the project was presenting her prototype and research to her teachers and peers.
A Stratford student since kindergarten, Herin’s loves the challenging, yet caring environment at Stratford. Her favorite subject has been biology since second grade, but enjoys geometry as well. She feels an abundance of support from her teachers and mentors at Stratford, especially Mr. Guansing, Mr. Takemoto, and Ms. Chung. “At Stratford, teachers don’t just teach you and leave at the end of the day,” Herin says, “they truly care about you and your individual passion for learning.”
When Herin is not strategizing on how to solve complex world problems, she enjoys playing ukulele, reading, watching documentaries, and playing badminton. She also enjoys conducting mini experiments at home, especially when they involve looking through a microscope and collecting data to analyze.
After Stratford, Herin is interested in attending a STEM school and wishes to study biomedical engineering in college. Herin plans to use her prize money to invest in a new microscope and other science equipment so that she can continue learning and exploring the world.
Read the press release from Broadcom here!