Teenager’s Engine Prototype has Potential to Transform Electric Car Industry

Aug 18, 2022

If at first you don’t succeed, keep going even if somebody gives you a lot of money before your project’s done. Robert Sansone won a $75,000 prize for his design of a new electric vehicle (EV) engine. He's working on the 16th version of it. The new engine could make EVs cheaper and better for the environment.

The 17-year-old is from Florida. He did the whole project on his own. “I didn't have a mentor to help me, really, so each time a motor failed, I had to do tons of research and try and troubleshoot what went wrong,” he told Smithsonian magazine. It took Sansone 15 tries to build a model that worked.

Sansone was inspired by a video about the pros and cons of electric cars. Most of them currently depend on magnets. The magnets are made from rare-earth elements. They are costly. Mining them is also bad for the environment.

To solve this problem, Sansone tried to update an existing type of electric motor. It doesn’t use rare-earth materials, but it lacks the power an EV needs. After a year, he built a prototype that improves how fast the motor can spin. The motor is also more efficient. The teen is currently working on yet another version of his model that can spin more times per minute. If his design continues to work well, he’ll apply for a patent. Then, Sansone can try to sell it to car makers.

Sansone won the $75,000 first prize at this year’s Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) for his work. ISEF is the largest international high school STEM competition. His winnings will go towards college tuition.

Photo by Michael Marais courtesy of Unsplash.

What is the function of the letters “EV” in the story? (Common Core RI.5.4; RI.6.4)
a. They are a scientist’s initials.
b. They are an abbreviation.
c. They are a type of rare-earth element.
d. They are the name of a car manufacturer.
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