Junior Wins Grand Prize for Scientific Research

Junior Albert Kyi was awarded the grand prize of $5,000 from the Michael Perelstein Discover Your Passion Competition to continue the outstanding work he did for his year-long sophomore independent project, which we call “March Madness.” The origin of Albert’s project started with a big idea and an uncertain path.
Albert wanted to design a project that would tackle the threat of climate change. “Greenhouse gases, such as Carbon Dioxide, cause global warming, and in turn, severe storms and catastrophic damage to our planet, so for my March Madness project, I wanted to build a machine that would get Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Fortune favors the bold, and Albert is certainly bold. He had an idea, but he was not sure how to execute it, so he sent an email to the country’s leading expert on Direct Air Capture (DAC), Dr. Klaus Lackner. Somewhat to Albert’s surprise, Dr. Lackner emailed him back right away. “Even though I was a little hopeful, I wasn’t expecting that he would answer quickly, simply because he was so important, and I was only a high school student.”
Dr. Lackner directs the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions and is a professor at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He generously offered his time to Albert. “I was really amazed by how open he was to teaching me about his work. After I emailed him, we set up an interview, and we spoke for over an hour and a half on his work.”
After speaking with Dr. Lackner, Albert contacted Mr. Allen Wright, the Executive Director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions. With the help of Dr. Lackner and Mr. Wright, Albert built a functioning DAC machine. You can read a summary of his research and the full specs of his machine here.
After Albert finalized his work and presented to his classmates, faculty and parents, his project was featured on Arizona State University’s website. “I felt really honored to have my project featured on the website. I knew that my machine wasn’t perfect, but I worked endlessly to make sure that it functioned the way I wanted to. I invested a lot of my time and energy to the point where it was practically my child.
Albert has some advice for this year’s sophomores just embarking on their March Madness projects. “Mr. Reilly (Dean of the Class of 2019) says this a lot, but don’t be afraid to dream big and take on challenges. The only reason why I did as much as I did was because I went out on a limb, and I wasn’t afraid of making mistakes or making a fool out of myself.”
“So many people at GCS are willing to help you out. The Science Department, for example, really helped me out with acquiring resources for my project, and my advisor, Mr. Klebnikov, who is a history teacher, helped me find experts for my project. The people from the Math and Science Center also really helped me out with making sure my machine was practical.”
When asked Albert what lies ahead for him, he said, “Science, and in particular Chemistry, have the real potential to solve many of the world’s problems besides global warming, and in the near future, I will join the growing body of chemists and engineers who believe science can heal an ailing planet.”