Freshman Lucas Katz Earns Honors at Science Fair

Bruce Katz
Freshman Lucas Katz showcasing his Unmanned Mobile Surface Level by the San Francisco Bay Area

Freshman Lucas Katz won first place at the 2023 Contra Costa Science Fair and went on to compete in the California State Science Fair in late April for his “Unmanned Marine Surface Vessel” used to measure marine parameters.

Katz said, “ Understanding the marine environment is crucial for understanding climate change, marine ecosystems [and] pollution.” Typically, buoys equipped with sensors make these measurements, but they are generally limited to a specific location where they are anchored. To address this problem and limitation, Katz designed, built, and tested his unmanned mobile surface vessel, also called a USV, which has a GPS and a real time clock (RTC) for correlating accurate sensor data.

The vessel is remote controlled, and has an intricate design that uses batteries to power motors inside each of the sides of the UVC. In response to the challenging intricate aspects of his science fair project, Katz stated, “The project has several challenge aspects, such as designing as well as 3D printing the hulls, remote controlled propulsion, electronic components like the sensors, GPS, data collection, and programming the Arduino microcontrollers, and making sure all of the components could actually stay together on the rough water in the SF Bay.”

He added that, “The biggest challenge was definitely waterproofing… I mean I’ve got batteries drawing a lot of current inside the hulls and if any water got in… it would be a big problem.”

The project required several field tests as well as engineering iterations before he could actually successfully operate his USV in the Bay. “ Designing and building stuff has always been a passion of mine,” said Katz.

Jay Chugh, who mentored two Campo students to winning the 2011 to the International Science Fair and talked about the importance of science fairs, and how they can be a way to understand science in a new and more interactive method, as well as how he would like to mentor a students in the future again.

“ I haven’t done the Science Fair thing yet again… I would like to teach AP Bio and Biotech again one day and that would give me the opportunity to mentor students for the science fair… Because you need a lot of time during class to develop your experiment and try it out and I need to help them”

When asked what’s next for the USV project, Katz stated how he intends to make many improvements, but that the most exciting enhancement will be to engineer the vessel to be autonomous and self driving.

“ I am excited for what is next,” said Katz.