17-Year-old Builds Algae Biofuel Lab in Her Bedroom to Win $100,000

17-Year-old Builds Algae Biofuel Lab in Her Bedroom to Win $100,000

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teen makes biofuel in bedroomA student passionate about biofuel set up a lab in her bedroom, complete with bubbling beekers, and ended up winning this year’s Intel Science Talent Search. Sara Volz, 17, of Colorado Springs, Colo., won the top award of $100,000 from the Intel Foundation for her research into next-generation algae biofuel.

Algae can be converted into a renewable fuel, but it can be costly. Sara used artificial selection to establish populations of algae cells with higher oil content, which could lead to an economically feasible biofuel.

Sara, who built a home lab under her loft bed, sleeps on the same light cycle as her algae. (See the video below)

From more than 1,700 applicants in Intel Science Talent Search 2013, 40 high school seniors were selected as finalists and invited to Washington, D.C., to present original research to esteemed judges and showcase their work. On March 12, Intel announced the top ten winners of the 2013 Intel STS at a black-tie gala at the National Building Museum.

Second Place

Second-place honors and $75,000 went to Jonah Kallenbach, 17, of Ambler, Pa., whose bioinformatics study breaks new ground in predicting protein binding for drug therapy. Jonah solved an open problem first posed several years ago, and his work suggests a new path to drug design by targeting a protein’s disordered regions. His research may open doors to treatment for diseases, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and tuberculosis.

Third place

Third-place honors and $50,000 went to Adam Bowman, 17, of Brentwood, Tenn., who successfully designed and built a compact and inexpensive, low-energy, pulsed plasma device. Typical plasma sources are large, complicated and expensive. Using his inexpensive technology, Adam believes plasma research can now be conducted in small-scale operations and even high school labs.

(WATCH the video below, or READ about the other competitors at Intel.com)