'Jugend forscht' – the talented Ferdinand presents his new projects: A young student develops a turning assistant for lorries

02. January 2019

“Jugend forscht” – the talented Ferdinand presents his new projects

A young student develops a turning assistant for lorries

Jugend forscht: Ferdinand Karnath und Jupp-Nepomuk Haasler

Young inventors: Ferdinand Karnath and Jupp-Nepomuk Haasler want to make cycling safer

Ferdinand is only 13-years-old and very tall for his age. However, at ‘Jugend forscht’, the renowned German national youth science competition, he is a veteran. In February, he will take part for the third time. Among the three projects he handed for this round is a turning assistant, which is not installed inside the truck but on the road.

First, Ferdinand recreated the intersection of Karl-Marx-Strasse and Strasse der Pariser Kommune in Berlin, where a cyclist was killed in 2017. Built on a scale of 1:41, he constructed a model equipped with sensors, a display, a camera as well as the single-board computer Raspberry Pi. For practical purposes, he based his model on something that can be found lying about in almost every children’s room in Germany: Lego bricks. Now, Ferdinand and his 12th-grade schoolmate Jupp Nepomuk Haaseler are programming the computer. Ferdinand explains how the technology works: ‘The screen monitors the bike and the lorry using an array of sensors, which calculate whether or not the two will collide. A display inside the lorry shows the driver whether he should drive or wait.’

The project was his father’s idea. He goes on triathlon bike trainings with his son and is well aware of the dangers of lorries for cyclists. He is annoyed that turning assistants in lorries have not been enforced sooner. Consequently, his son is now developing a version for street use.

Ferdinand’s developed an early interest in technology: ‘I have always asked myself things like how can I produce electricity? Shouldn’t a carpet be enough?’ He presented said carpet at the 2017 edition of ‘Jugend forscht’. As early as 5th grade, Ferdinand was ready to move on to secondary school. His favourite was the Heinrich-Hertz-Gymnasium in Berlin-Friedrichshain that has a focus on STEM subjects. He was motivated to take part in the national science competition by the physicist and engineer Chris Kakuschke, who volunteers as head of the extracurricular ‘Jugend forscht’ group at that school once a week. In his opinion, the school curriculum does not properly prepare students to study engineering.

Ferdinand’s Piezo-Tower, a construction that produces electricity through vibrations, was also developed in this group and won him the first prize at the regional competition round of ‘Jugend forscht’ in South-Berlin, which is hosted by the Technology Park Adlershof. For the coming competition round, Ferdinand is working on three projects. In addition to the turning assistant, his second project involves optimising street lamps. ‘I’m thinking about using wind rotation, or solar panels, or building in Piezo elements to convert the vibration around the utility poles into energy.’ His third project corresponds with the second: retooling street lamps with LEDs. This will be more cost-efficient in the long term, he says.

In addition to his research, the schoolboy is a successful athlete. He goes to triathlon training four times a week. Next year, he wants to take part in the Youth B group at the German championships.

When asked about how he juggles all these activities, he shrugs and smiles: ‘I’m good at time management.’ He also clearly enjoys what he’s doing. Becoming an athlete is at the top of Ferdinand’s career wish list, but he could also imagine becoming an inventor, or underwater archaeologist.

By Jördis Götz for Adlershof Journal


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