It was the solution to a problem that has plagued Saskatchewan's winter drivers for years.
Plugging in your block heater overnight is a great way, and sometimes necessary way, to make sure your vehicle's engine doesn't freeze, and ensure the car can be driven away the next morning. In the early morning fog of sleepiness or the morning rush, many a driver will forget to unplug the cords before driving away.
Nevermore will it be a problem for forgetful morning commuters to drive away with their cords still attached, at least not with the designs by Jacob Windecker and Brandon Kennedy. The two senior students from the Weyburn Comprehensive School designed a self-detaching block heater cord, a design that won them first place in the 21st annual Southeast Regional Science Fair, last week in Midale.
Their project, entitled SDBH 1.0, also won the senior engineering category.
The duo will take their project to Charlottetown, P.E.I. for the Canada-wide Science Fair from May 12 to 19. Accompanying them will be runner-up Kalum Brennan of Midale, for his project All Jacked Up, and his design for a new jack. Kalum's project was the second-place finisher in senior engineering.
The duo decided to do the project after hearing a list of possible ideas were fired off by their teacher.
"(We wanted to) try to find a way to solve the problem of when people plug their car in overnight to keep their engine running on a cold day, but then they forget about it and drive away while it's still plugged in," said Brandon. "It rips out pretty aggressively and damages some things. So we thought, 'why don't we make it magnetic?' so it's still strong enough to hold it together and keep the energy flowing, but it's weak enough that it will disconnect without breaking anything."
Jacob explained that it was a simple enough design process, but they did have to make sure they were precise.
"The only main issue was trying to design it so that all three pins make contact at the same time and make a good connection," he said. "That's really one of the only major design features that we had to work on, and we revised it many times."
The boys are looking at ways they can further improve their project before the science fair out east. They have some ideas of their own, but the judges they said, gave them some useful pointers.
"Even during the presentation today, we thought of two or three more things that we could do to change it," said Brandon. "The judges were really good, they gave us lots of tips."
"We got lots of input on ways we could improve it and ways we could make it better overall," added Jacob.
With this year's Canada-wide fair being held in Prince Edward Island for the first time, it not only grants the teens an opportunity to exhibit their work along with the other top projects the country has to offer, but also a chance to visit the Maritimes.
"I've wanted to go to the East Coast for a long time," said Brandon.
Judges at the science fair came from a variety of backgrounds, with teachers as well as several others from the area's business community.
Other winners from the science fair were Sheldon Daniel of Avonlea for What's in the Name?, in junior life science; Breanna Aikens and Celina Earl of Avonlea for Do Shoes Matter?, in junior physical science; Leanne Dombowsky of Avonlea for Chicken Scratch, in junior engineering; and Kaylee Fuchs of Carnduff for Where is My Cellphone? in junior computer science.
First-place intermediate awards went to Midale's Dakota Emde and Jessee Brennan for WonderFULL Bra in life science; Selena Wiebe and Maggie Peters of Midale for Make Cents? in physical science; William Read of Midale for O.S.C.D. Project in computer science; Dillan Plews and Barrett Paton of Carnduff for Two Way Toolbox in engineering; and John Boutin of Redvers for All the Poo on Farm Bio-Gas.
Senior awards went to Ty Paton of Carnduff for Glucose Testing Horses, in life science; Michael Wiebe and Braiden Effa of Midale for Bouncing Back!, in physical science; Matthew Read of Midale for Gears of War 3, in the computer science category.
Paton's Glucose Testing Horses and Dombowsky's Chicken Scratch won third and fourth overall projects at the fair and will be part of the winners' showcase, where they will display their projects at the Saskatchewan Science Centre in Regina.