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Great Falls seventh-grader wins prize for electric vehicle charging science experiment

Cooper Middle School student Kriesh Tivare uses an oscilloscope (courtesy of the Tivare family)

A 13-year-old Great Falls resident’s science experiment about recharging electric vehicles while they’re in motion won him statewide honors.

Kriesh Tivare earned the State Merit Award for Virginia in the national “3M Young Scientist Challenge” last month for an experiment that examined how to make contactless charging a reality using coils in a roadway to power a toy car.

“It basically charges the car as it drives over,” Kriesh said.

A partnership between the engineering company 3M and Discovery Education, the Young Scientist Challenge takes place annually and is open to students in fifth through eighth grade. Competitors submit short videos explaining the science behind a possible solution to a problem they see in their community.

A panel of judges selected a merit winner from each state as well as 10 finalists, who will compete in a final event at 3M’s headquarters in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in October. The overall winner will receive $25,000 and the opportunity to get a mentorship from the company.

In his prize-winning experiment, Kriesh explains how switches on a road could be pressed by a tire to close a circuit and use electromagnetic induction to power a vehicle, rather than having stationary charging stations restoring power.

Kriesh got the idea when his family would go on trips and have to hunt for and spend time at charging stations for their Tesla Model 3, which they normally charge every day. During one family trip in 2019 to Boston, range anxiety was evident as they had to break every five to six hours, taking 45 minutes to an hour to recharge.

“At the mall, there’s this one spot that’s dedicated to…charging, and a lot of the charging stations are already being utilized,” he said, contrasting the amount of charging stations to gas stations.

Kriesh created his own materials using a fishing rod to wrap coils hundreds of times around small PVC piping.

He used a frequency generator to power coils on a roadway model and an oscilloscope to measure how much power was induced, experimenting with different coils and frequencies to maximize efficiency.

Heading into eighth grade at Cooper Middle School in McLean, Kriesh enjoys history and math classes and could see himself as an astronomical engineer, discovering a planet or looking for life in space.

Contactless charging — the term Kriesh used for his contest entry — is becoming a reality. For example, the company ElectReon Wireless Ltd. has deployed its technology on public roadways in Israel and Sweden for buses and trucks.

Researchers in California examined the technology in the 1970s and 1980s and eventually tested electric vehicles in motion. A 1992 report investigating the feasibility of electrifying highways noted a roadway inductor would cost a “few million dollars per lane mile,” but equipment costs for vehicles were “considerably more uncertain” at that time.

A research team at Cornell University, led by electrical and computer engineering associate professor Khurram Afridi, has been working on improving road-powered charging technology for electric vehicles, which they say could have uses from electrifying highways to supporting autonomous forklifts and robots in manufacturing warehouses.

Afridi said in a video about the technology that the timing could be right to introduce changes to infrastructure in need of repair.

Kriesh is interested in continuing his experiment by looking at how 5G signals could allow road coils to charge a vehicle without pressure plates, avoiding the need for his model car to drive over switches.

“In the future, the 5G network will replace the switches within the road to activate the coils in the road instantaneously,” Kriesh said in his contest video. “Dynamic charging could be a promising future for smart, driverless vehicles.”

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