Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

June 17, 2013

Local teen explores wireless technology

Project earned Cade Meurer spot in Google Science Fair regional finals.

BY LINDSEY ZILIAK KOKOMO TRIBUNE
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Eighteen-year-old Cade Meurer has spent years exploring ways to transmit electricity wirelessly – a fairly new concept that’s now earning him national recognition.

The recent Eastern High School graduate submitted his research and work to Google Science Fair, and he just found out that he’s a regional finalist in the competition.

Only thirty 17- and 18-year-olds from around the world made that cut. He’s competing against 17-year-old Sagnik Chakraborty from India whose project explores electricity from traffic. There’s also Charalampos Ioannou, 17, Greece, who developed an exoskeleton glove that enhances and supports movement of the human palm.

There are contestants from Australia, Canada, Brazil, Poland, Italy, Slovakia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Ukraine and Singapore. Their projects were designed to do things like create new technologies for quadriplegics or help struggling farmers in India.

Meurer’s project posed a specific question. He wanted to know whether transmitting electricity wirelessly could be both practical and efficient without causing major interruptions to radios, electronic devices or even medical equipment.

“Wireless electricity sounds kind of crazy, but it’s not,” said Meurer’s physics teacher Ben Cox. “There’s work being done on this at MIT.”

Meurer himself proved last year that the technology works. He was able to turn on an LED light bulb using wireless electricity.

It’s something he tinkered with for quite some time, he said.

“That was definitely an awesome moment,” he said.

But he focused his research this year on whether the technology could be implemented on a much larger scale.

There aren’t a lot of people working on this technology, though, he said. Even the engineers he met at other science fairs only had a basic understanding of it.

He spent a lot of time teaching himself. Meurer taught himself some calculus. He read from a teacher’s electrodynamics textbook to learn what he could from the college-level physics material. He also did a lot of research online. Meurer said he would watch an MIT professor’s lectures on YouTube when he got home from school.

All of this led him to his project this year. He created two modified antennas and transmitted electricity wirelessly between them. While he did that, he collected data to determine whether it was interfering with the short-wave radio he had with him.

It did.

“The voltage and current supplied to the transmitter is much less than what would be needed to power even a small electronic device, but the interferences are still intense enough to easily overpower a radio station within the same frequency,” he noted in his report.

Meurer will find out at the end of the month if he made it to the finals of the Google Science Fair. The prize for winning it all is lucrative, he said. The grand prize package includes a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands, a $50,000 scholarship and a hands-on trip to CERN in Switzerland, LEGO headquarters in Denmark or Google headquarters in California.

Even if he doesn’t win, he’s still gained a valuable experience. And he wants to continue his research on wireless electricity in the coming years.

Meurer said he’s always been interested in physics. He loves figuring out how the world works. He can often be found tinkering with or building things like electro-static speakers.

He once wanted to study medicine in college. Instead, he will be attending Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis in the fall to study energy engineering.

“Science fair changed my outlook and made me realize that I am much more interested in engineering because of the endless possibilities and challenges that it provides,” Meurer told Google Science Fair judges. “Engineering allows you to think of whatever your mind can imagine. Nikola Tesla, considered the innovator of wireless electricity, created an impression on me because of his wild thinking, planning to ionize the atmosphere to allow anyone in any location to receive power. Although the idea was radical, the journey he took to try to actualize his dream led him to other great discoveries along the way, which is the beauty in science and engineering.”

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com.