St. X Sophomore wins First Place at ISEF

Sophomore at St. Xavier High School, Joshua Jacob, won a 1st prize award at International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) for his project titled “Development of a Hybrid Inkjet 3D Printer: a Novel Approach to 3D Printing Conductive Architectures and Flexible Electronics.”

Mr. Jacob is the youth ambassador on the board of the Louisville Regional Science & Engineering Fair (LRSEF), which has been held onsite at Kentucky Science Center for the past two years.
Jacob at ISEFThis year, Mr. Jacob won first place in the category of Engineering Mechanics at LRSEF, placed as one of the top four “Best of Fair” projects, and continued to win second place in the same category at the state level. He also competed at the 9th Annual International Sustainable World (Energy, Engineering & Environment) Project Olympiad (I-SWEEEP) the week before ISEF and won Bronze.

Twenty-one students from Kentucky competed at ISEF with eighteen projects, both team and individual. “As a state, we always have several winners each year. Typically these have been special awards and some category awards; I do not remember a first (place) since 2009 – at least for LRSEF,” said Ballard High School Chemistry Division, Science & Engineering Fair Coordinator and Louisville Regional Science & Engineering Fair Co-Director Ronda Fields. “Category awards are presented to the top 25 percent of the students in a category, so there can be multiple 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st.” In Mr. Jacob’s category of Engineering Mechanics two first place awards were awarded.

Mr. Jacob got involved in 3-d printing at St. Francis of Assisi Middle School, when his class was given access to a donated 3D Printer. He competed in his first Science Fair in 6th grade and won best of show in 8th grade at LRSEF. “Which got me really excited to continue competing,” said Mr. Jacob.

The genesis of this year’s winning project began in 9th grade, when Mr. Jacob decided to try using a wide variety of materials – beyond the usual plastic – with household 3D Printers. He printed with resin for ISEF his freshman year, where he met kids from around the world. “It’s only one day of judging,” said Mr. Jacob, “but you’re there for a week, you make friends, and it’s a ton of fun. It’s the best experience you can get as a young scientist – you get to network.”

“LRSEF has been a great experience and help,” said Mr. Jacob. “They give helpful suggestions – really helped me get prepared for ISEF.” Mr. Jacob cites people like Science teacher, Fred Whitaker, Dr. Sankara at the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at UofL, and initiatives like FirstBuild as a few more examples of the places he found mentorship, support, and access to materials.

In addition, Mr. Jacob attended summer camps at the Conn Center and participated in the high school mentoring program. He would stay up to date on the latest technology by reading Science Daily and visiting other science news websites, and research after school – at one point for two hours a day, three or four days every week. “I want to help have an impact but still do science – that’s what feels like my passion,” said Mr. Jacob.

One week before ISEF, when Mr. Jacob placed third in his category I-SWEEEP, he says he set his sights lower for the next competition. “I just started hoping for fourth, and when I wasn’t called I thought, I’m not getting anything now,” said Mr. Jacob. As he recalls it, he hoped for third, but knowing it was a reach he, “pretty much zoned out,” as they called the other names, including that of the other first place winner. “It was really exciting to suddenly be up there with 35 other first place winners out of 1800 kids.”

Mr. Jacob’s hybrid inkjet and 3D printed uses Graphene as ink. He can print flexible circuitry and electronics, and believes the technology could be used to print super capacitors, small medical devices, and much more, on equipment that will cost less than $500. He is trying to pass the provisional patent now to fully patent next year. “I’m very excited about that process. I’m talking to a patent attorney to work on getting it patented this summer,” said Mr. Jacob.

He plans to go to ISEF again, and continue pursuing a S.T.E.M. career. “I’ve already started my research for next year; building on this year’s project.” Pictures from the competition can be found on the LRSEF Facebook Page. The next LRSEF will be held March 4, 2017 at Kentucky Science Center.