Indian American teenager Maanasa Mendu emerged from a group of 10 finalists as the winner of the 2016 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge Oct. 18 in St. Paul, Minn.
At the final event, Mendu, 13, from Mason, Ohio, who created HARVEST, a bio-inspired energy device that uses solar and wind power to create energy, was named the top prize winner, earning $25,000 and the title of America’s Top Young Scientist in what is believed to be one of the biggest middle school science competitions in the U.S.
“Each year, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge reminds us of the inspiring ingenuity that results when we empower our youngest generation to apply science, critical-thinking and creativity to solve real-world problems,” said Discovery Education president and chief executive Bill Goodwyn in a statement. “Discovery Education is honored to stand alongside 3M in congratulating Maanasa and the rest of this year’s finalists on their impressive innovations that foreshadow a bright future for our nation.”
Mendu, a ninth grader at William Mason High School in the Mason City School District, competed against nine other finalists — five of whom were Indian Americans — at the 3M Innovation Center.
HARVEST was inspired by a visit to India where she discovered many people lacking basic life necessities such as clean water and lighting.
Through her invention, Mendu hopes to provide a globally applicable, cost-effective energy source.
“Her scientific thinking reflected the competition’s goal of applying science to everyday life, creating a solution that will improve lives and strengthen communities around the globe,” Discovery Education and 3M wrote in a joint statement.
All the finalists had an opportunity to work with 3M scientists to develop their personal inventions as part of a summer mentor program. The 3M scientists provided guidance as they worked through the scientific method to advance their ideas from a theoretical concept into a physical prototype.
At the final competition, the finalists presented their completed inventions to a panel of scientists and leaders from Discovery Education and 3M,
Additionally, the finalists paired up to compete in a challenge through which they combined multiple 3M technologies to solve a real-world problem.
“Witnessing a new generation of young scientists leverage their passion and knowledge is truly inspiring,” said 3M business development and marketing-sales senior vice president Jon Lindekugel in a statement. “We know these young scientists learn a lot from the 3M mentors they are paired with as they evolve their science innovations over three months of hard work, and the truth is, we always learn from them as well. It reminds all of us at 3M that when scientists come together, they really can change lives for the better.”
Indian American Rohan Wagh, of Portland, Ore., was awarded second place at the final event, earning a $1,000 prize and a trip to a taping of a show on Discovery’s family of networks.
Wagh, a ninth grader at Sunset High School in Beaverton School District, received second place for his innovation that utilizes the natural metabolism of bacteria to create energy.
Meghna Behari, of Swickley, Pa.; Mrinali Kesavadas, of Mahomet, Ill.; Rohit Mital, of Rochester Hills, Mich.; and Sara Makboul, of Acworth, Ga., finished within the bottom five spots, though their exact positioning was not disclosed. Each earned a $1,000 prize and a $500 Excitations gift card.
Since its inception in 2008, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in student prizes, paired students with world-renowned scientists to give them real-world insights and delivered much-needed science resources to millions of students, teachers and families across the country.
The competition targets students in the years when research indicates their interest in science begins to wane and encourages them to explore scientific concepts and creatively communicate their findings.
Winners have gone on to be featured in Forbes magazine’s annual “30 Under 30” list, speak in front of members of Congress and attendees at the United Nations, meet the president of the United States and demonstrate inventions on national television programs.