Fall 2012

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Jonny Cohen, center, and members of the GreenShields team. Photo by Natalie Sereda.

Magic Green Bus

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Ever wonder about those strange designations we use throughout Northwestern to identify alumni of the various schools of the University? See the complete list.

Northwestern engineers help high schooler to develop a fuel-saving airfoil for buses.

Jonny Cohen was walking home from school one day in seventh grade when he noticed a school bus rumbling past, spewing exhaust. Cohen, who has taken classes at the Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development since fifth grade, remembered what he had learned in one of those Saturday sessions about aerodynamics. Then he had an idea — to develop a bus-top shield to improve airflow and reduce drag, which would lead to improved gas mileage and reduced carbon emissions. GreenShields was born.

“The Center for Talent Development allowed me to kind of think about the idea,” said Cohen, now a senior at Highland Park High School who hopes to attend Northwestern. With the help of Northwestern senior lecturer Stacy Benjamin, director of the Segal Design Institute’s Certificate in Engineering Design, Cohen formed the GreenShields team.

“The Center for Talent Development helps students use their creativity in the right direction,” said Benjamin, who first met Cohen during an eight-week CTD course on exploring engineering. During the past two summers Cohen worked with Northwestern engineering students Matt Filak, a rising senior from Cincinnati, and Tim Healy (McC12) to build and test fiberglass molds of the airfoil. (In June Cohen presented and explained his experience at the Segal Design Institute as part of the "Entrepreneurs: Kids Inventing Fabulous Stuff" panel discussion at the Center for Talent Development's 2012 Opportunities for the Future Conference.)

Cohen, the son of law school alumna Jakee Miller Cohen (L86), has had some success with his prototypes, which tests have shown can reduce fuel consumption by more than 25 percent. He is continuing to refine the airfoil and hopes to receive Environmental Protection Agency approval.

Cohen, who appeared on Good Morning America and was profiled in Scientific American and Forbes’ first “30 Under 30” in the energy category, hopes to give GreenShields to school districts across the country. He is competing for grant funding to provide the airfoils free or at cost. In late July GreenShields won the Audience Choice award (and $5,000) in the Banking on Youth competition, sponsored by the Consumer Bankers Association Foundation and Ashoka’s Youth Venture.