Stand by for energy saving tool
Now in his sixth year at Stromness Academy in Orkney, Galen Brown was 15 when he began pondering the problem of electrical devices left on standby which consume the output from around 20 power stations a year in the UK alone. "I'd learnt some electronics at school and had taught myself from books and the internet," he says.
"I've always experimented and tried to make things. When I was five, my granny would let me make cardboard models of kettles and stuff, and wire them up with string."
The design and build of the Flexible TV Standby Controller was a little more demanding, as the origin of its short name the FSC11 reveals. "It was version 11 that first worked," explains Galen. "At version six, I had to change the whole design."
The prototype, which has been working for a year, connects a television or DVD player to the mains through a control box that monitors the current and cuts the circuit after five minutes on standby power. "It has an infrared sensor that switches everything on again from the remote," he explains.
Rewards began rolling in after the hard work had been done. First came a Crest Award at Gold level, leading to a trip to the festival of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in London. The judges there awarded Galen one of only three places from Britain at the EU contest for young scientists in Valencia, where his invention and presentations won him a one week trip to CERN in Geneva the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.
Highlights of the whole experience, Galen says, include getting his concept to work and talking to "lots of interesting people who had done similar things".
Besides the trip to CERN, the future holds the exciting prospect of an engineering degree at Edinburgh University and a little more work on the FSC11. "I have got a patent now, and I am looking at ways to get it on the market," says Galen.
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