Highland Park High School Student Named National Award Winner
Jonny Cohen, a student at Highland Park High School, was named one of ten national winners of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Each year, the Barron Prize honors 25 inspiring young people ten winners and fifteen finalists who have made a significant positive difference to people and our planet. Barron Prize winners each receive $2,500 to be applied to their higher education or to their service project.
Jonny invented GreenShields, a polycarbonate shield that attaches to the front of school buses, making them aerodynamic and nearly 30% more fuel efficient. Jonny conceived of the idea three years ago, walking home from school. Irritated at gas-guzzling buses chugging by, he wondered, “Is there a cost-effective way to make these older, poorly-designed buses more fuel efficient?”
An avid scientist and tinkerer, Jonny set out to work designing and building a wind tunnel in his garage, and tested his wind shield idea on toy school buses. By the time he was in ninth grade, he had assembled a team of older students as advisors and was using a force probe interfaced with a computer to collect preliminary data on his model GreenShield.
A $25,000 Pepsi Refresh award allowed him to conduct further research, run computer simulations, and create a prototype plexiglass shield. Jonny worked with students and professors at Northwestern University and MIT to fine-tune his project and to build an actual GreenShield. On its first test run, attached to a loaner school bus, the shield reduced gas consumption by 28 percent. Jonny continues to hone his prototype, and has enlisted the help of the Illinois Department of Transportation to overcome complex transportation regulations related to attachments added to school buses.
“Working on GreenShields is the most challenging and rewarding experience I’ve ever had,” says Jonny. I now know that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life use science to help the world.”