OAKLAND -- Take a step into the future with Oakland Tech 10th-grader Jun Jie Li's design for a trash-eating, environmentally friendly machine.
Li's invention was titled "Raindrop Eco Spider," a name that mirrors its shape. The machine eats trash, which it also uses as fuel to operate. Then it stores any extra energy it collects in batteries. Li said his design is for a self-sustainable machine.
"Overall, I wanted a well-rounded machine," Li wrote for the placard next to his invention. "Roughly the size of a fire hydrant, I see it doing behind-the-scenes work along sidewalks to clean up cities."
Inside the machine, a robot controls a magnet-wielding arm and a set of pincers. On top is a light bulb that allows the machine to work at night, Li said, much as some street sweepers do today.
Li presented his design for the invention at the launch of Phase II of the Climate Lab last week at the Chabot Space & Science Center.
Ten to 15 kids designed environmentally friendly inventions and Li's was one of three the exhibit team at the Climate Lab chose to have fabricated. Ben Carpenter, a local blacksmith, made a metal model from Li's design, both of which are on display in the Climate Lab.
Melissa Russo, director of institutional advancement at Chabot, said Li's design and the designs of others will inspire kids to take the Green Machine Design Challenge. The challenge "invites visitors to invent their own apparatuses designed to reduce carbon in the atmosphere," according to a Chabot release.
Rusty Lamer, a Chabot exhibit team member, said the lab is planning to fabricate some of the ideas turned out by other kids.
Lamer was impressed with the notes Li left on his drawing.
"The notes are so wonderful," Lamer said. One of the notes said that the machine has a waterproof body so the machine can act as a lifeguard on the weekends.
Leah Kalish, Chabot's youth development coordinator, described Li as "pretty amazing," and has worked with the Oakland Tech student for the past year.
"He is very hardworking, responsible, and he has a sincere interest in the sciences," Kalish said. "He is one of our younger interns."
Kalish said Li was interviewing for a paid internship at the Center, and she expected him to get the job. "He's shown tremendous leadership, hard work and dedication to the program," Kalish said.
Li wants to be a chemical engineer after college.
"I really like science," he said. "I really like knowing things. The sense of the unknown is very appealing to me."
The 10th-grader plans to attend a science-intensive college, such as UC Berkeley, UC San Diego or MIT. After college, he said he wants to work for a medium-sized company to create new chemical products.
"He has very high expectations of himself," Kalish said.
Li is getting a strong start as part of the Galaxy Explorer Team at Chabot.
The Galaxy Explorers is a volunteer program for ninth- to 12th-graders interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, serving high schools all over the Bay Area, according to Kalish. The students can use their volunteer experience at Chabot for community service credit, but most use the experience to help them get into college.
"Last year, 100 percent of our (Galaxy Explorer program) graduates attended college," Kalish said.
Li is a first-generation Chinese-American whose family originally hailed from Guongdong, China. His mother and sister live in Oakland and his father works in China as a restaurant manager.
Li clearly has affection for his family.
"My mom has been an excellent role model for me," Li said. "I have improved with her help. My sister is a relaxing person for me. She's indescribable."
As for his father, Li said: "He's a really smart person. He taught me half of the stuff I know. He's the type of person I want to be when I grow up. He's a great provider for our family."