Homeschooled high school student Alex McBride will be competing at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz.
McBride has always been interested in science. His homeschooling education has allowed him to refine his skills, he said.
For the last few years, McBride has been doing research at the material science lab at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He contacted Drexel and the university agreed to allow him to work in lab beginning in the summer of 2010.
“I did work helping a grad student during that summer who was doing research on solar cells,” McBride said.
Through research with the students, he learned how the process worked and the logic and reasoning behind using the solar cells.
His project won first place in the Delaware Valley Science Fair, which included students from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
“So, basically, I experimented with quantum dot sensitized solar cells. These solar cells are a lot cheaper than conventional silicon-based devices, however, their efficiencies are a lot lower,” McBride explained. “My project attempted to increase the efficiencies of theses solar cells so they could be used for commercial applications.”
McBride’s interest in the technology began at a young age.
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in,” McBride said. “In sixth grade, I began working with solar cells. I’ve been building a knowledge base over the past few years.”
McBride’s homeschooling schedule allowed him to spend more time working in the lab at Drexel. For him, it refined his math and science skills.
“It’s hard to contrast public school or private school [to homeschool]. I could go at my own pace and study it more specifically,” McBride said.
“The way the dates worked out the project was di-solar cells. This project wasn’t done until last month and the deadline to submit to the local science symposium was in January,” McBride said.
McBride originally qualified for the international fair in the seventh grade when it was held in Atlanta. He was unable to compete due his age, but was still able to attend.
This year, his first-place honor at DelVal qualified him to present his project.
“I’m not too nervous,” McBride said. “It’s one of those things you can be nervous about or you can go for it.”
McBride will be attending Drexel in the fall and hopes to pursue his doctorate in the future.
To learn more about the Intel International Science Fair, visit www.societyforscience.org.