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Engineering for the Environment

Robinson student combines service to the community with academic interests.

As an Eagle Scout, Jonathan Cross of Springfield wanted to create a science fair project that would also benefit the community. The rising junior at Robinson Secondary was interested in fuel cell technology. As he was thinking about car exhaust and the environment, Jonathan wondered how pollutants would affect brand-new fuel cell cars.

The fruits of his research resulted in the project "Effect of Automotive Exhausts on Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells." He worked with a mentor at the Night Vision Lab at Fort Belvoir, and the project earned Jonathan fourth place and $500 in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which took place in May in Seattle, Wash.

Fuel-cell technology "really is the driving force in the future of power," Jonathan said.

Jonathan spent several weeks at Fort Belvoir researching and experimenting how air pollutants clog up, damage and destroy the platinum catalyst in the fuel cell. Among his experiments, he took an exhaust pipe and pumped chemicals into the fuel cell.

He reported his findings to his mentor's colleagues at Fort Belvoir.

When Jonathan isn't conducting research, he said he keeps himself busy through his other activities. In addition to being an Eagle Scout, he works with disabled children and is an officer for Robinson's German Club and started the school’s Fencing Club. He plays and teaches viola and is the principal violist for the Robinson Symphony Orchestra. He is also active in his church and has been a delegate to several leadership conferences. He served a two-year term on the state school board committee and was inducted into the Math Honor Society.

Jonathan is considering a career in engineering as well as public service.

"I have a gut feeling that I'll get involved with politics because I like leadership, politics and the law," Jonathan said.