MASON -- Maanasa Mendu, a Mason High School freshman, has been selected to be a top 10 national finalist for the 2016 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
The annual premier competition recognizes scientific thinking and imagination in students from grades five through eight who dream up a solution to an everyday problem that could ultimately reshape the way we live.
At the competition at St. Paul, Minnesota, Oct. 16-19, Mendu will present her invention that helps make wind power a globally applicable energy source.
She has created a device that utilizes piezoelectricity materials that are both eco-friendly and cost efficient. Piezoelectric is the effect of certain materials to generate an electric charge in response to applied mechanical stress.
Mendu explained her idea in her entry video, which you can see here.
“Currently we are facing a global energy crisis and the current sources of renewable energy we have access to, like wind turbines and solar panels, often have lots of limitations and lots of requirements,” said Mendu, 13.
Wind turbines require very high wind speeds to operate and they cannot be used in private urban areas; they only work in rural or remote areas, Mendu explained.
“We do have wind supply in urban areas, so I wanted to create an energy-harvesting device that can even harvest energy at low wind speeds. That could be applied in any situation to provide a stable source of power,” said Mendu, noting that she has added a solar panel to her final project.
Mendu and the other nine finalists, ages 12 to 14, defeated hundreds of others by demonstrating their superior science knowledge, innovative thinking and exceptional communication skills in their entry videos.
The 10 finalists are from public, private and home schools from all across the country.
Science is 'everything'
Mendu was born in Florence, Kentucky, but was raised in Mason. Her father, Sreepathi, 42, is a software engineer and her mother, Padmaja, 40, was a doctor in India but is currently a stay-at-home mom. They both said that Mendu has always been a “self-motivated, independent high achiever.” Her younger sister, Haasini, 9, is also interested in science.
Mendu herself said that her journey to the science contest began as a curious child.
“I played with Barbie dolls but I also broke apart things to see how they had been assembled. I built with Legos and I put duct tape on paper boats when I realized that the paper boats sink,” said Mendu.
Mendu has always loved math and science, but her affinity for math emerged first.
“Since I was a kid, I loved math. I still do. It’s a fascinating subject and my interest in it has continued on, and it inspired me to start working on this project and submit it for the competition,” said Mendu, who has balanced school work, competitions, science fairs and Olympiads through the years.
Once Mendu decided to enter the Young Scientist Challenge, she spent hours and hours researching for topics. After she learned that wind power only produces 4 percent of America’s energy, she decided that would be her focus.
“I entered the Young Scientist Challenge to help turn an idea into a reality,” Mendu said. “I believe my invention has the capability to provide electricity to the world in an environmentally friendly way.”
For the competition, Mendu was matched with a mentor and 3M scientist Margaux Mitera, a senior product development engineer in 3M’s stationary and office supplies division. Her work focuses on developing Post-it Note products designed to help consumers turn their theories into real products.
The winner of the Young Scientist Challenge will take a trip to the White House, but Mendu is not focused on winning.
“I will just continue working. In science, it’s really never the end and that the cool thing about it,” said Mendu, who aspires to work in medicine or an environmental engineer.
She said she wishes there were more girls interested in science and math. In her current math class, there are five girls and 20 boys.
“No one is telling girls to not be interested in math and science, but for some reason, there are more boys. That needs to change. Girls are more than capable of understanding these subjects,” Mendu said.
If she could talk to other teens, she would tell them to pay attention to science because in the 21st century, it is everything.
“Science is not really a hard thing. It’s everything basically in life; everything is branched from science,” Mendu said. “Just look at something you really enjoy and think, ‘I really want to improve this, and think how you can do it.'”
About the competition
The Young Scientist Challenge began in 1999 with a goal to foster a new generation of American scientists at an age when interest in science generally declines.
Discovery Education partnered with 3M -- one of the world’s most notable innovators -- in 2008 and has given students the opportunity to work directly with and learn from 3M scientists.