The Jewish American teen who's making school buses 'green'

March 15th, 2015
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The Jewish American teen who's making school buses 'green'

March 15, 2015

JTA - As a seventh-grader walking home in Highland Park, Ill., Jonny Cohen would watch school buses pass by and wonder if there might be a way to make them more energy efficient.

School buses are an “overlooked form of transportation,” says Jonny Cohen, now 19. “I like efficiency and for things to be efficient, and I have a passion for the environment.”

With the help of some friends and advisers at Northwestern University, he started the GreenShields Project to design an aerodynamic Plexiglass air shield for the front of the buses. The shield cuts the fuel use by buses up to 25 percent by reducing their drag.

“Taking something that already exists and modifying it just a little can make a big difference,” Cohen said. “We only have one earth and we can’t be wasteful.”

Now a sophomore at Columbia University studying mechanical engineering, Cohen still spends several hours a week working on GreenShields to improve its technology and design. The shields are in place on just a handful of buses, but he hopes they will be found “in all school districts, on all school buses to be more [energy] efficient.”

For his efforts with GreenShields, Cohen was named the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award winner this year. He plans to apply the award to his education, as well as toward structural and physics research related to the project.

“Repairing the world is a very broad concept,” Cohen said. “GreenShields is a simple solution, but changing the way people see how we use energy, that can have a big impact on the environment.”

By Suzanne Kurtz Sloan,

Photo courtesy of Jonny Cohen