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Invention Contest encourages innovation

The ARRA Student Workers, a subsidiary of the Student Government Association (SGA) at the American Samoa Community College, staged an imaginative promotion of energy saving earlier this week with an Invention Competition open to the College’s student clubs.

Participating clubs were asked to come up with an invention that demonstrated an efficient use of energy, and the resulting entries confirmed that all it takes is imagination and ingenuity to use familiar materials in unfamiliar ways which can result in energy saving.

The competition took place on the main lawn of the ASCC campus, with one tent set aside for the display of club inventions and another tent reserved for visiting representatives of the American Samoa Coastal Management System/Fagatele Bay and the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources to set up information booths. ASCC students, whether club members or non-members, took the opportunity to check out both the inventions on display as well as the informative booths offering insights into American Samoa’s environment.

The inventions themselves displayed how, with a little scientific knowledge, the most basic of materials can be combined to produce energy saving devices.

The All Saints Club showcased a mini-water filtration system which can purify dirty or polluted water and make it safe for human consumption. Amazingly, this compact system fit into a large plastic soda bottle, and consisted of layers of natural purifying elements which the liquid passed through on its way from top to bottom. Much like the earth’s own purifying system, by the time the polluted water reached the bottom of the soda bottle, it could safely be consumed.

Another interesting invention came from the SGA themselves, who showed how a used light bulb could function as a small kerosene lantern. With 100% cotton material used as the “wick” of the lantern, and the bulb’s metal tip modified to allow the material to pass through, anyone can create this reliable light source should a proper lantern be unavailable. New Generation stressed that this invention can only function properly when the right materials are used, and can actually be dangerous if other components are substituted for material of 100% cotton or kerosene.

The New Generation Club entered a highly unusual cooking method which incorporated a used tire and glass window louvers. With the tire on a flat surface, If a small cooking pot is placed within its circumference and the glass louvers are positioned atop that circumference, the glass will amplify the intensity of sunlight to such a degree that the resulting heat trapped within the tire will slow-cook the contents of the cooking pot. And, while time constraints precluded the club from offering the resulting cooked food for tasting, their invention did show how expensive panels are not the only way to harness the abundant energy of the sun.

A panel of four judges, including ASCC Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Kathleen Kolhoff-Belle, took notes on each entry and assigned points based on various criteria. The tallied points of the judges led to All Saints emerging as the contest’s first place winner. SGA President Dona Maifala, who also organizes the ARRA Student Workers, thanked the participating ASCC clubs as well as his SGA colleagues for their assistance with the contest.

For more than a year, the ARRA Student Workers at ASCC have organized a number of activities to promote saving energy, including art, song, and essay writing contests, as well as outreach activities for the local elementary and high schools.

Dr. Kolhoff-Belle captured the spirit of the event when, during her welcoming remarks, she offered as an anecdote the dramatic highpoint from the film “Apollo 11”.

“At one point in the film, space capsule malfunctions and the engineers at NASA need to improvise to save the astronauts’ lives”, she said. “The NASA engineers have to use whatever materials the astronauts actually have on board the capsule to compensate for the mechanical failure, so they gather all these same materials on a table and have to use their wits to improvise a workable solution. I believe we should use this same talent for creativity and invention as we need to face the challenge of making the best use of our resources.”

Maifala reflected on how the Invention Contest brought the ARRA Student Workers activities for this semester to a positive conclusion.

“I am so happy that the clubs came out with unique ideas that will help conserve energy”, he said. “I believe that the contest was a great way to close the ARRA Activities this semester. I know that the Energy Program has come to an end for us workers, but we have gained a lot, and we hope that we were able to reach out to the students, and especially the community on why it is important to save energy."