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In past years for my Honors capstone projects, I have studied a range of subjects, from nursing home design to processed food to animal rights. While I drew interest in all of those fields, I did not feel challenged enough. As I entered into my final year of high school, I was encouraged to steer my Honors Project towards a field I will pursue in college. Because of my interest in the STEM fields, I decided to direct my project towards something requiring design thinking and innovation. 

I entered the Jacob’s Teen Innovation Challenge to strive to think differently and also to explore my passion about global issues. The competition is run by the University of San Diego and challenges students to invent a solution to a social problem that is aligned to one of the seventeen United Nations Global Goals. I began researching the UN Global Goals to better understand which issue I wished to address. The eleventh goal is to create “Sustainable Cities and Communities” centered around accommodating all people with innovative living conditions. 

It was extremely important to me that my project apply to those in my community and be centered around creating a more sustainable home for those in need. Louisiana is becoming increasingly vulnerable to hurricanes as years go on, the effects being particularly bad in underprivileged communities. I created my solution, Weather the Storm, in order to address that exact issue. During hurricane evacuations, the CDC reports that only 17% of people actually evacuate in the United States. The University of Delaware did a study on the root cause of this and determined that factors such as income, race, gender, and disabilities often affect people’s evacuation decisions. 

For those with the means to afford a generator of some kind, electricity and access to local news on the storm are easily accessible; however, this is not the situation for every, or even the majority, of households. Generators are not only expensive but also utilize gasoline, creating a massive amount of emissions. My solution is a hydroelectric and wind generator, produced on a small scale in order to power a battery pack to charge a cell phone and other plugged devices. Oftentimes, it is easy to forget the importance of the necessities in our lives, one especially being communication. It is vital that this fundamental right be maintained for all people in all living situations, especially when communication means survival. Rain and wind come in surplus during a storm and can be turned into something incredibly useful. My machine, Weather the Storm, will be produced on an inexpensive scale and will utilize natural resources to operate. I will begin experimenting with prototypes next semester as I begin the trial and error process of selecting materials. The culmination of my project is a recorded pitch of my idea for the competition judges in early April. 

Through this project, I have been able to explore concepts in engineering, physics, and environmental science. As I continue to learn more about the kilowatts required to power a battery and the speed needed to turn a turbine, I am beginning to gain a deeper understanding of real-life applications of my classwork. Choosing a topic and challenge that was not necessarily on my current skill level has allowed me to broaden my knowledge of the numerous things there are to learn. As I continue my work into the second semester, I hope to grow in my ability to continually develop new ideas, alter plans when needed, and create simple solutions to complex problems.


-Lauren Wiltz, '24