Name: Rachel Pizzolato A.K.A. Beauty & Brains With A Twist
Home Town: New Orleans Louisiana
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I am currently a freshman at John Curtis High School in River Ridge Louisiana, and during the school year I participate in beauty pageants, runway modeling, science fairs, and I train year-round as a trampolinist. I am also an inventor, and a designer at heart, and I always have some sort of gadget or gizmo in the works! And now…. I have an amazing new summer job as a MythBuster on MythBusters Jr!
How did you get started making?
I have been “making” things since I was a very little girl. Also, My dad, and grandfather, got me started working on all aspects of remodeling houses at a young age. I remember back when I was a very little girl crawling under our house when they were both under it. They were digging a tunnel so they could fit in an area to get to the pipes. I crawled on the other side where they were trying to get to, and then they stopped and asked me if I could cut the pipe and put it back if they showed me how. Of course, I said “Yes”, and since I was already where I needed to be, they attached a rope to a box with all the tools I would need, and they pushed the end of the rope to me with a long piece of pipe. I pulled the box towards me, and I began to fix the pipe. I already knew how to use the saw, but my grandfather showed me how to connect the pipes by demonstrating on a few scraps of plastic pipe. I just did what he told me to do, one step at a time, and the pipe was connected. That kind of opened the door to lots of wire pulling, pipe repairs, and tons of crawl space inspections over the years. I was small back then, but now, I am 15 years old, and almost 6 feet tall, so it isn’t quite as easy to fit into those little spaces anymore!! —-Although being thin helps a bit! I have also been working with my uncle, who is a jeweler, for quite some time. He has taught me many aspects of the jewelry trade, and those things have allowed me to see the little things that make the difference between a finished product being acceptable and that same product “knocking your socks off!!”
How would you classify yourself as a maker?
I get asked about what type of maker I am all the time. I guess because I am a scientist, at heart, I am always following the scientific method. I know that my research must be able to be repeatable and hold up to scrutiny from my peers. I am always questioning why something happens, and I have a constant desire to find out through experimentation. Although I have been working with turbines for a good portion of my life, I am also interested in the human body- especially rehabilitation of joints. I recently won the Akron Polymer National Championship for my invention called “THE HALO” that has shown promise in the rehabilitation of the wrist, and hand, in injured athletes and geriatric patients. I also enjoy writing essays and poetry. I recently won the AIAA National Championship for my essay, “Astronauts – The Right Stuff Indeed!” and had my poem, “I Wonder” published as part of a compilation. Because my interests are so broad, I really don’t have one area that I focus on. I guess I am an amalgam of all types of makers. I enjoy being able to design, construct, work with electronics, use many different tools from each trade, write, defend my results, and work with others. I have never labeled myself, in any aspect of my life, so I guess that holds true with making! Also, I feel that being involved in the fields of Fashion, Modeling, and Gymnastics has allowed me to see things from many perspectives that I would not have been able to if I was only focused on science.
Tell us about one of your favorite projects.
The most favorite thing that I have made would be the Science Project that I have been working on for 5 years. It is a continuation project, and I have been dreaming about, designing, and testing prototype vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT) since I was about 9 years old. I have always been interested in the power of the wind. I can remember going to Disney World, as a child, and visiting the Epcot Center. The first time I walked under Spaceship Earth, I noticed the wind that was blowing past me while I was under the big ball. It always fascinated me that the air would “magically” start to blow fast as I walked past the underside of Spaceship Earth.
Fast forward to 2012 during a trip to California for the National Trampoline and Tumbling Championship. That trip was like a turning point in my life, because it was the first time I saw a wind farm up close, and personal! During the middle of that 3000-mile trip, we stopped in Van Horn Texas, and I noticed lots of long power lines running across the Interstate that supplied power from very far away. The buildings were very scattered, and the railroad had a crossing that did not get much use, it seemed. That little town seemed to make a big impression on me. After another 1500 miles, the wind farm came into view, and I was overwhelmed by how the turbines just kept turning in the distance, as we drove down Interstate 10. The whole time, I had my arm out of the window, catching the wind, and watching the turbines spin. I also had been noticing the tumbleweed, as it was rolling down the Interstate, during that trip, and all those things just kind of came together. I thought, “Why aren’t turbines on the side of these empty roads to take advantage of all this wind that the cars are producing?” I figured, why not use those turbines to generate electricity from all those cars that pass each, and every day, on both sides of the Interstate. After that day, turbines have been a very important part of my life. My first science fair project was based on that idea of powering a vertical axis turbine by the turbulence from a passing car, and since then, I have been developing scale-model Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWT) to test various functions of biomimicry. I have incorporated, whale tubercles, nanoparticles (“The Lotus Effect”), and bird wing movement into my designs, and all the turbines were tested in a venturi that was inspired by my trips to Disney World to see Spaceship Earth!
The project has been a continuation project for the past 4 years, and this is now my 5th year I am working on it. I have won the Grand Champion Award at the Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair in 2016, 2017 and 2018. I was named Broadcom Masters Top 30 Finalist in 2016 and 2017. Also, because of this research, I had a minor planet, 33187 Pizzolato, named after me!
What would you like to do in the future?
I have lots of ideas, and projects, in the works, and most of my projects are long term in nature. Currently, I am working on a few designs for my future turbines that involve biomimicry – It really is hard to outperform what nature has designed and refined over millions, or even billions of years. I, definitely, want to continue to put my Prusa 3D printer to good use by designing and testing various shapes of vortex generators, for future projects, to increase efficiency of any “body” that moves through a fluid such as aircraft wings and fuselages, and ships and submarines For so many years, it has been believed that a perfectly smooth surface was the best option in aerodynamics — I plan to continue my research and attempt to “BUST” some of those myths!!! Also, I really enjoy pyrotechnics, and I have plans for, what I think is an amazing wearable and reloadable pyrotechnic “Gatling Gun” style device. Think Bumblebee’s wrist rockets on steroids!! I call it, “The Ring of Fire!”
Any advice for others?
The advice I would give other makers is to MAKE!!! I hear lots of people say, “I am going to build that one day!” My advice to them would be to start, “TODAY!!” I have had times where I made lots of plans and wanted a project to be a complete success before, I ever drove the first nail. However, something always comes up. The project might be bigger and more complex than you envisioned, or it might not have the “FEEL” that you were looking for, once it starts taking shape. If you do a mock up with cardboard and duct tape, and actually put your ideas into a model, you will have the ability to see how things go together, or if something is in the way and won’t open or close, you can make modifications before you spend time, and money, building the final product. Most of the enjoyment is in working on the project, SO……GET TO WORK!! My dad always tells me, “One brick at a time!” Those words have helped me stay focused on each step of a project, without looking at the, sometimes, mind boggling amount of work that might lay ahead of me.