Governor’s School students present final projects

By Ryan Cornell

MOUNT JACKSON — Students at Massanutten Regional Governor’s School spent their last day of class presenting the research projects they’ve worked on since August.

Two juniors from Stonewall Jackson High School, Thomas Bellerose and Jonathan Koontz, developed a device similar to a speed bump that converts mechanical energy from cars into electrical energy.

Their project, which they dubbed “HydroWow,” uses the force from a car driving over the device to pump water through piping into a turbine.

Thomas said he came up with the idea while sitting in bed one night trying to think of a way to produce free energy.

“Cars are everywhere,” he said. “Why don’t they just run over something and make it produce energy?”

According to him, people have previously attempted to implement this type of device only once: at a single Burger King drive-thru, where it proved to be too bulky and expensive.

It wasn’t long after his idea was born that Jonathan joined the team after his plans for a transportation project involving magnetic levitation didn’t pan out.

Jonathan said they complement each other well in discovering how things work.

“There aren’t really parts of this,” he said. “You can’t buy a kit online. We pretty much had to manufacture and invent things.”

During their presentation on Friday, they encountered technical failures and equipment malfunctions. They couldn’t seem to meet the same 12 volts of electric power that had appeared during their trial runs.

Thomas said he learned that things almost never end up as expected.

“The first time that we even tested it, it worked out 10 times better than we expected and now when we actually come to present it, something goes wrong and it doesn’t work,” he said.

Jonathan said he learned that simpler can sometimes be better, after their attempt to improve the device by adding more parts backfired.

“But also, just that we’re capable of pretty impressive things,” he said. “Like we don’t have to follow in other people’s footsteps to be successful.”

Trevor Wolf, a junior from Central, presented a Dobsonian telescope that he designed and constructed.

He said the telescope, which can see stars, planets, nebulas and globular clusters, cost about $800 to create.

“The whole idea of a Dobsonian is that you’re building a telescope that costs less than a commercial one costs,” he said. “So even though $800 sounds like a lot, most of it is optical components, and if you compare them…a 12-inch aperture can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $1,500, so it’s less expensive than what a commercial one would be.”

The type of telescope he constructed also has an equatorial mount, which lets it rotate to different positions, and doesn’t have the chromatic aberrations seen in a traditional telescope with a refractor

Trevor said he’s thinking about building a tracking system so he can motorize the mount to move the telescope across the sky to follow an object

A total of 76 juniors and seniors from 10 high schools in Harrisonburg and Rockingham, Page and Shenandoah counties attended Massanutten Regional Governor’s School this year. Of those 76 students, 25 were from Shenandoah County.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or

Comment Policy

Print This Article


Local News