Niceville High student's project draws interest from Gov. Scott

Katie Tammen | Northwest Florida Daily News
Niceville High School senior Kyle Saleeby speaks with Gov. Rick Scott March 27 during the State Science and Engineering Fair in Lakeland, Fl. Saleeby's "A Current Event: Using Renewable Electrical Tidal Energy in the Production, Separation and Storage of Hydrogen Gas" was one of more than 830 projects at the event.

Five years ago, Kyle Saleeby thought he was onto to something when he started trying to harness the power of the tide to produce clean energy.

At the State Science and Engineering Fair of Florida last month, he received confirmation he was on the right path from Gov. Rick Scott.

“I was just hoping to get a chance to talk to him,” the Niceville High School senior said. “ … He seemed to really like the idea (and) asked a couple of questions.”

By the time they were finished talking, Scott had asked Saleeby to send him more information about the project, and an aide handed Saleeby a business card with contact information. No promises were made but Saleeby is hopeful, nonetheless.

Watch a video of Saleeby talking to the governor »

“It would be awesome to have someone in such a high position even consider it,” he said. “One of the main problems with it right now is resources.”

Saleeby was inspired to explore the potential of the tides as an energy source in the seventh grade after he and his father got caught in changing tides while scuba diving under the Marler Bridge in Destin.

“I had no idea of the power of the water until then,” the 18-year-old said.

With the help of his father, who is an electrical engineer, Saleeby built a water wheel out of plywood and dropped it in the water from the front of a boat when the tide was changing.

The wheel started spinning immediately, and Saleeby couldn’t get it out the wheel wouldn’t stop moving. There was so much power that a 2-by-4 board stuck into it to try to stop the movement cracked and the wheel kept going.

He’s now on his fourth prototype of the water wheel, which is made from sheet metal. He said he can’t wait to make a fifth one with additional resources he hopes he’ll find at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he will attend in the fall.

“I really believe in it,” he said. “At least in water zones, it can definitely change the way we view energy.”

View the full list of local students who brought home awards »