New York City School Bus Drivers On Verge Of Strike

A serious problem facing humanity is the destruction of the environment. I think the biggest problem isn’t the actual problem–it’s how we are looking at the solutions. At GreenShields we think we should start small. It is small, feasible innovations like GreenShields that can contribute significantly in the future. The challenge is to think creatively with our existing resources and try to be equally innovative and cost-effective.

While walking home from school one day in 7th grade, I noticed the inefficient design of school buses. Car designers try to optimize vehicle shape to be similar to that of a raindrop, thereby minimizing drag to improve gas mileage; why isn’t the same design technique being utilized for school buses? I was taking a Saturday enrichment class on aerodynamics at Northwestern University and thought that a simple design improvement could be made to increase aerodynamics, which could, in turn, improve gas mileage. I thought of GreenShields, an aerodynamic add-on device that decreases the drag force on a school bus, which saves gas and money for schools.  I ran home to tell my older sister and we visited her physics teacher to discuss my idea. He said he thought my idea could work.

The purpose of my invention is to save gas and money for schools. GreenShields is simple, durable, inexpensive, and weighs 8 pounds. After testing several prototypes, the current device in computer simulations and road testing shows approximately 10% mpg savings. I formed a team of high school students, interns, a project advisor at Northwestern University, and my former AP Physics high school teacher, Mr. Pujara.  I’m now studying mechanical engineering at Columbia University and I have mentors in the engineering and business schools as well as alumni mentors.

Today, school buses are traveling farther to drive their routes as many buses are stored in locations far from the towns they serve, resulting in highway and long distance driving before the driver even begins their daily route.  Additionally, school districts spend about 3 billion dollars each year on fuel. Our mission is to help schools nationally and world-wide pollute less and save money on gas so funds can be used for education instead. School buses get approximately 4-6 miles per gallon, which is alarming. A GreenShield increases fuel efficiency by up to 10%, if you multiply those savings across the 480,000 school buses that are on the roads in the USA daily, that’s almost 1 million tons of CO2 that would not be emitted into the air we all breathe.

Nationwide, districts are facing budget cuts and are forced to either put off the purchase of new more efficient buses, or outsource their transportation needs to large bus companies. These firms pool their resources to serve as many schools as possible with as few buses as possible, thereby maximizing the time that a bus is on the road. Consequently, many school buses use more fuel at a faster speed just getting to and from their routes and to their central storage/service location. They often take highways and travel at speeds above 45 mph, before even beginning their traditional role of picking up students and driving them to nearby schools.

Currently GreenShields is working with a school district in Florida and gathering data. We are also beginning testing with my hometown school district of Highland Park, IL.

As a recipient of the  Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, I recently received a scholarship of $36,000. With this support, GreenShields will be able to fund structural engineering research at Columbia University. In the spirit of Tikkun Olam, or ‘repairing our world’ GreenShields is honored to be a Diller Teen Award recipient as it brings me closer to my goal of providing GreenShields to school buses everywhere.

Jonny Cohen is an 18-year-old Highland Park resident who is receiving national recognition for his efforts in reducing the environmental footprint of school buses across the nation.