Can an eel generate enough electricity to power an iPod? Answering that question was the basis of an electrifying Year of Science experiment at the Vancouver Aquarium today. The result: the student-inspired experiment demonstrated that it would take about 14,000 eels two hours to generate enough power to power an iPod, or one eel more than three years.
"Investigating the unknown is what science is all about," said Dr. Moira Stilwell, Parliamentary Secretary for Industry, Research and Innovation to the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. "Our goal with the Year of Science is to get young people interested and excited about science and asking questions. That's how we encourage them to become the next generation of B.C. scientists and innovators that are so important to B.C.'s future."
The experiment was based on the winning idea of Jiwan Toor, the second semi-finalist in the Year of Science's 'Choose Science, Go Far, Win Big' contest. Toor, who is now eligible for the grand prize of a $25,000 scholarship, is a 16-year-old student at Fleetwood Park Secondary school in Surrey. His question: Can natural electricity powered by electric eels be converted into enough usable energy to power our iPods, Blackberrys or even laptops?
"I was hoping to find a way to save energy, and I thought that perhaps we could harness some natural power through this beautiful marine animal," said Toor, who attended the experiment.
The experiment was carried out with the help of Dr. William Dunford, electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of British Columbia and six of his second-year students from UBC's integrated engineering program. Student Chris Tulip explained the science behind the experiment:
"Electrodes were put in the water to capture the energy naturally produced by the eel, and when the energy from all the electrodes is combined, it's used to charge a storage device called a capacitor," said Tulip, adding that in order to charge an iPod they would need to use more electronics to take the eel's energy and transform it into a standard iPod charger.
"Science provides an infinite variety of learning experiences, and with more than 70,000 creatures, each with fascinating characteristics, the Vancouver Aquarium offers endless opportunities for our youth to discover, explore and learn about the natural world. As an official partner of the Year of Science, we are pleased to see students engaging in marine science," said Dr. John Nightingale, president and CEO of the Vancouver Aquarium.
Based on the popular TV show, Mythbusters, the Year of Science's 'Choose Science, Go Far, Win Big' contest asks young people to upload videos of their ideas for science experiments or myths to be tested.
All entries can be submitted to the Year of Science YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/yearofsciencebc
During the year, six semi-finalists will be chosen. The third semi-finalist will be announced later this month.
Check out the winning video at: www.youtube.com/user/TheScienceStud
For more information on entering the contest, go to: www.yearofsciencebc.ca/contest
Public Affairs Officer
Public Affairs Bureau