Indian-American Teen Maanasa Mendu is America’s Top Young Scientist

Rohan Wagh Bags Second Place in 2016 Young Scientist Challenge

By Geeta Goindi

St. Paul, Minnesota, October 18, 2016 – Indian-American whiz kid Maanasa Mendu is the winner of the highly competitive Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

Maanasa, 13, of Mason, Ohio, created a device which she hopes will harness wind power making it a globally applicable energy source. She was awarded a grand prize of 25,000 dollars, the title of ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’ of 2016, and an opportunity to attend a taping of a Discovery Network show. The two-day competition was held at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul where finalists were evaluated on a series of challenges including a presentation of their completed innovation.

Interestingly, this year, of the ten Finalists, five were of Indian descent: Rohan Wagh, 14, of Portland, Oregon; Meghna Behari, 13, of Sewickley, Pennsylvania; Mrinali Kesavadas, 14, of Mahomet, Illinois; Rohit Mital, 13, of Rochester Hills, Michigan; and Maanasa. Rohan bagged second place in the competition.

The finalists – next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) leaders — were selected from scores of competitors across the nation based on their scientific prowess, exceptional innovative and communication skills, and an uncanny ability to make a positive difference in their community, the country, and around the world.

Maanasa, an eighth-grade student at Mason Middle School, created an energy device which she named Harvest. It was inspired by a visit to India where she witnessed first-hand several people lacking basic necessities such as clean water and lighting. Maanasa entered the Young Scientist Challenge believing her invention can provide electricity to the world in an eco-friendly and cost-effective manner.

“This has been an amazing journey, and a great learning experience”, she said, about the Challenge. “I have learned so much about the importance of research, organization and communication”.

For the brilliant teen, the high points of entering the competition were: working with her 3M mentor, Marguax Mitera; watching the evolution and application of her prototype; and receiving valuable feedback from other 3M specialists.

“Along the way, I have learned so much about the process of innovation”, she said. “Innovation is more than just a lightbulb moment, it’s rather a continuous expansion very much like our universe”.

Maanasa firmly believes, “Whether testing for the hundredth time, researching for hours or perfecting a presentation – nothing ever comes without hard work. One of the things I am most proud of is keeping a constant recording of my project every week”, she says. “If I were to do it again, I would try to spend less time contemplating different ideas”.

Rohan is desirous of eliminating energy poverty in developing countries. An eighth-grader at Stoller Middle School, his method increases the efficiency of a microbial fuel cell. Rohan believes his invention which is compact and requires minimum maintenance can be used effectively all over the world.

Among the other Finalists were Amelia Day, Sara Makboul, Will Paschal, Sofia Tomov, and Kaien Yang. All ten – six girls and four boys – were afforded an opportunity to work one-on-one with a renowned 3M Scientist during a summer mentorship program. Each student received 1,000 dollars and an expense-paid trip to the 3M headquarters to participate in the final competition.

The Young Scientist Challenge is the nation’s premier science competition for students in grades 5 through 8. It has turned scores of young people across the nation into innovators while enhancing science exploration and honing communication skills. The goal is “to foster a new generation of American scientists at an age when interest in science generally declines”. Students are encouraged to think out of the box, to come up with innovative ideas and solutions for tomorrow’s challenges!

“At 3M, we know the importance of encouraging ‘next-gen’ scientific thinkers who will invent new ways to solve the issues our customers face everyday – from keeping workers safe on the job to addressing global issues like access to clean water”, says Jon Lindekugel, senior vice president for Business Development and Marketing Sales at 3M. “Through 3M’s summer mentorship with the finalists, we’re excited to hear their fresh ideas and to provide guidance through the scientific process as their projects move from concept to reality”.

Bill Goodwyn, president and CEO of Discovery Education, notes, “The Young Scientist Challenge brings the magic of science to life for young people everywhere – enhancing science exploration nationwide, and helping to develop the communication, critical thinking, and problem solving skills today’s students need for success beyond the classroom”.

Maanasa has some advice for other budding scientists: “Don’t forget a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step! Take your single step and find an idea you love and enter the Young Scientist Challenge next year”, she says.

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Indian-American whiz kid Maanasa Mendu (center) is the winner of the highly competitive Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Photo credit: Discovery Education / 3M
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