Intel's International Science and Engineering Fair has been running for a number of years, with previous winners developing an inexpensive self-driving vehicle system, a cancer-detecting software tool, and a system for improving air quality in airplane cabins. It's billed as the world's largest international pre-college science competition, this year seeing nearly 1,800 participants from 420 associated fairs in 81 countries, regions and territories taking part, all innovating for their chance to grab a slice of the US$5 million awards and scholarships prize pot. There can be only one winner though, and that honor went to 19 year-old Oliver Nicholls of Sydney, Australia, for his prototype automated robotic window cleaner for commercial buildings.
The Gordon E Moore Award, named in honor of Intel's co-founder, adds up to $75,000 and has just been handed over for a window cleaning robot that's said to have been inspired by an employee at the winner's school having an accidental fall and breaking his leg.
The $2,300 cleaning bot has eight tilting rotors mounted in a 4 x 2 configuration and is attached to a winch on the roof of a building and lowered down to a dirty window. The rotors fire up and move the bot away from the glass, then a spray nozzle gives the area a good soaking before rotating pads wipe away the suds.
The pulley system moves the robotic cleaner up, down and sideways over the window until it's sparkling, and then transports it to the next dirty pane.
The system is reported capable of remaining on the job in 28 mph (45 km/h) winds, and has the potential to replace existing cleaning methods reckoned to cost upwards of $11,000 for each job, while also helping to reduce injuries to human operatives (who will no longer have to hang precariously off the sides of buildings).
The Intel prize is not the only award that the robotic cleaner has managed to secure, Nicholls won first place in the Engineering category at the BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards in Melbourne back in February.
Two runners up at the ISEF competition each took home a $50,000 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award – Meghana Bollimpalli (17) of Little Rock, Arkansas, for her innovative and inexpensive method for synthesizing electrode-like materials and Dhruvik Parikh (18) of Bothell, Washington, for his low-cost composite membrane destined for use in large batteries that store energy from renewables like solar and wind.
"Intel congratulates Oliver Nicholls, Meghana Bollimpalli, Dhruvik Parikh and all of the participants on their groundbreaking research that will help solve some of today's greatest global challenges," said Intel's Rosalind Hudnell. "When students from different backgrounds, perspectives and geographies come together and share their ideas, there is no limit to what they can achieve."
A total of $8,000 each went to 24 Best of Category winners, while their schools each got $1,000 from Intel, and hundreds of other finalists also received awards.
You can see the winning window-cleaning drone doing its thing in the video below.
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