Our Lady of Mount Carmel seventh-grader explores household energy source

By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

DOYLESTOWN – Can the water sufficient for an ordinary household shower be harnessed to produce a measurable amount of electricity? Caroline Boschetto, who dreams of a future where energy is derived from sources that are not harmful to the environment, proved that it can.

At 13, and a seventh-grader at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Doylestown, her contribution to this future won her a gold medal in her age group at the Delaware Valley Science Fairs held at the greater Philadelphia Convention Center in Oaks in April and an all-expense-paid trip to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair held in San Jose, Calif., May 9-14. {{more}}

Basically, she connected an ordinary shower arm to a miniature generator activated by the flowing water, which produced a measurable amount of electricity carefully documented from a voltmeter.

“For this project I was inspired by other energy ideas,” Boschetto said. “My school helped and encouraged me. At first I wanted to do other energy projects too, but they counseled me to focus on one and do it well.”

As for the finished project, she is convinced that the principles demonstrated, with further modification, have the potential to be a usable source of energy.

Encouragement came from school principal Elizabeth Barry and especially from science teachers Sarah Crandall and Franciscan Sister Thomas Ann Quinn.

“Carolyn is very well-spoken and she understood her project,” Crandall said. “I have to applaud her. She did it very well.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel actually had 14 participating students at the fair, which overall had almost l,000 students of various ages competing in several categories. Twelve of the school’s participants placed; a very good showing. “We are proud of them all,” Crandall said.

Boschetto was pleased when she won in a preliminary competition and a bit surprised when she won at the Oaks competition because there were so many other well-conceived projects displayed. In the end her planning, attention to detail and articulate presentation paid off.

“She logged a lot of time – 77 hours – on the project and she pulled it off,” said her father, Rob Boschetto.

That meant several trips to the Home Depot and hardware stores for various parts, along with scanning online for a small enough generator, a specialty item similar to that used on bicycles. It also meant family cooperation while she commandeered the kitchen sink and the bathtub at different stages of project development.

“I’m proud of her and excited for her to have the opportunity to go to California,” her father said. “We are all happy she did well.”

Boschetto’s age group did not compete further at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, but just being there was satisfaction enough for her.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I liked seeing the international kids and talking to them. Seeing so many ideas was really great.”

She has two younger sisters, Sophia and Laura, and her only regret was missing Laura’s first Communion, which took place during her trip.

Boschetto is well-rounded. Through CYO she runs track and plays basketball and softball. She also plays the flute and participates in her school’s scrapbooking committee and chimes group.

With one more year to go at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, she’s thinking down the road to attend a private girls’ high school, possibly Villa Joseph Marie in Holland. And later, she is definitely considering a career in engineering.

“Through this experience I realized science is about creating new ideas, not just retesting old ones. I like solving problems,” she said.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.