Jeff Smith wanted to be the first kid on his block in Martinsville, Ind. to build a robot. Instead, his project led to the creation of a “bionic” hand and arm. Jeff, now 15, started work on it in the fifth grade. After four years of research and six months of construction, Jeff had put together an artificial limb to rival the $6 million man’s. The arm has more practical application though. Once perfected, Jeff believes it could be surgically connected to nerve and bone so that impulses from the brain would control it. “It’s not something to take off,” says Jeff. “It would be both watertight and bacteria-tight. You could even swim with it.” Last month he submitted his invention to the South Central Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair at Indiana University and won nine awards. They qualify him to compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair in Denver this month, the youngest student ever to do so. Jeff says he comes by his tinkering naturally because of his parents, both ham radio operators. Jeff hopes to study engineering at Purdue and eventually design aircraft like his older brother.
Lee Post has been turning off lights since she was old enough to reach the switches. It was a childhood habit. Now she hopes to make sure the lights and heat won’t have to be turned down by the 100,000 residents of Boise, Idaho, where for the last four months Lee, 28, has occupied the city’s federally funded Energy Office. One solution she is actively promoting is geothermal heating from boiling underground water. Lee points out that some 170 homes in Boise are being heated from a hot water spring first tapped in the 1890s. The search for more springs is under way and, if found, they will be used to heat the new Boise city hall and a state office building. After two years of premed at Boise State College, Lee dropped out for financial reasons and eventually became an executive secretary at the Idaho Office on Energy. A month later the fuel shortage hit and she was in charge of allocation, juggling the demands of farmers and truckers. “Energy is going to be the field for the next 100 years,” predicts Lee, who wants to move on to another energy-related job when her one-year grant expires.