How science is making life better for Hongkongers

How science is making life better for Hongkongers

Hong Kong's newest inventions are all practical solutions to the city's changeable weather and unpredictable seasons


Kwun Tong Government Secondary School's Edwin Lui (left) and Chloe Cheng
Photo: 48th Joint School Science Edhibition Preparation Committee

The 48th Joint School Science Exhibition (JSSE) kicks off tomorrow, and these are just some of the amazing inventions you can see there. This year, practical discoveries are exactly what the JSSE is all about.

The theme of the exhibition, which runs from tomorrow until Sunday at the Exhibition Gallery of the Hong Kong Central Library, is "Seasons". The challenge is to use science to help solve problems brought about by the weather or changes in seasons.

Hong Kong's dependency on air conditioners inspired Wa Ying College's team to invent "Gelo", an air-conditioning unit for small flats and subdivided units. It claims to be smaller, cheaper, silent and more environmentally friendly than traditional air cons. Toby Chui Cheuk-long, a Form Five student, says the idea came from personal experience. "I built one for myself last summer. The theme for the JSSE was perfect for my idea. The design is different but the theory is the same."

The Gelo looks a bit like a regular air conditioner but it's much smaller. Inside, there are two water tanks. Using a process called thermoelectric cooling, also known as the Peltier effect, electricity heats up the water in one of the tanks while cooling the water in the other. The cool water is used to cool the air. Replacing the coolant that is usually found in air conditioners with water is not only more cost effective, it's better for the environment.

Wa Ying's Jeremy Wong (left) and Toby Chui were inspired by dependency on air conditioners.
Photo: 48th Joint School Science Exhibition Preparation Committee.

With Hong Kong being a foodie's paradise, the Kwun Tong Government Secondary School team knew their invention would be a hit here. "Volcanic bowl, glacial basin" is a temperature-constant bowl. Team leader and Form Five student, Edwin Lui Sen-tat, says that he was inspired by his love of food. In particular, he likes his hot food to stay hot and his cold food to stay cold. The bowl uses a thermometer and control device to ensure that if there is hot food in the bowl it stays warm, and if there is cold food it stays cool.

Chloe Cheng Ho-yi, also a Form Five student, learned a lot about project management while building the bowl. "Application and theory are totally different." Edwin adds: "We also had a problem with our model. We had to saw through the stainless steel base of the bowl by hand because it was too much for a machine to handle. It took us two weeks just to get that part done."

But the inventions don't just offer practical solutions for homes.

To save people from wearing wellies only to find the sun is shining an hour after they leave the house (which happens all too often in Hong Kong), the team from Kiangsu-Chekiang College (Sha Tin) invented something called "seamless heavenly clothing". It's a combination of a thermometer along with a database of clothing insulation and human metabolic data. This sounds pretty complicated, but basically by cross referencing all this data, the system can tell you what you should be wearing.

Form Five student Allen Chan Hin-lun says: "It takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed and other factors."

Kiangsu-Chekiang's (from left) Theean Chan Log-yi, Sarah Feng Zhijie, Steven Cheung and Allen Chan had a point to prove.
Photo: 48th Joint School Science Exhibition Preparation Committee

So what's wrong with just looking out the window before deciding what to wear? Steven Cheung Chi-yan from Form Five explains: "The system takes into account your health, sex, age and uses objective data rather than human perception, which can be unreliable."

Sarah Feng Zhijie explains what inspired the project. "One of our school rules says we can only wear coats when the temperature is lower than 12 degrees Celsius. We want to prove this is unfair using our device."

A group of Form Four students from St Joseph's College invented "Illuminashoe". It claims to be a disinfecting, water-repelling and ventilating system for footwear. The outside of the shoe has a water-repellant coating, while the inside has a chemical coating and a light built into the toe of the shoe. When UV or LED light is shone on this light, as is done by placing the shoe on a special charger, it activates the chemical which kills bacteria and fungus, and stops shoes from smelling.

Captain Matthew Wong Ting-hei says the idea was born from practical concerns, noting that Hong Kong's humidity is not ideal for storing shoes.

Kony Kwong Hing-tim, who was in charge of the technical side of things, says he was happy with the process. "It's really satisfying to make things, test things and use our knowledge of chemicals to make something useful."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
How science makes life better


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