Center Grove a state finalist with STEM idea

Three Center Grove students want to make winters more bearable for low-income individuals.

In Center Grove High School’s Project Lead the Way biomedical science class, three students want to make winter easier for homeless people.

The students, in Andrea Teevan’s Project Lead the Way biomedical science class, want to create a cheap, insulating material that can be used as a blanket for people who are homeless or a sealant for people who live in chilly mobile homes.

Seniors Mahek Agrawal, Madison Hammill and Athulya Nair are collaborating to make their idea come to fruition, and are earning their chance at a national spotlight along the way.

That project gained state-wide recognition, and Samsung named it one of five state finalists for the Solve for Tomorrow Contest, which asks sixth through 12th graders to come up with science, technology, engineering and math concepts to solve community issues, according to a news release from Samsung.

“We combined our interests together with the intent of helping the community, figuring out something cost-effective and something we can use,” Agrawal said.

There is no maximum potential for the material the students want to use because it has several existing applications already, Hammill said.

“There’s a variety of uses to it, because it is already applied in some areas,” Hammill said, giving the example of hand-heating pads. “It’s a low-cost option and it’s a simple idea but it can apply to so many more things.”

The trio of students are still figuring out how the material could get warm again after its initial use, but they are still in the process of finalizing the product design. Either way, it is a way to provide cover from the wintry months ahead, Hammill said.

As a state finalist, Teevan’s class received a Samsung Tablet. Students will have to submit a project video explaining the concept, and if Center Grove is chosen as one of 100 state finalists, the school will receive a $15,000 prize package and video kit. Twenty national finalists will present their prototype to a panel of judges, and in April, the five national winners will receive $100,000 in technology and classroom materials, along with a trip to Washington, D.C. to present their ideas in front of members of Congress, according to the news release.

Although Teevan approached the students with the contest, Agrawal, Hammill and Nair came up with the ideas completely on their own, Teevan said.

“They have such an innovative, creative spirit to them; it will take them pretty far in life as they’re setting up their college plans,” Teevan said. “It’s exciting to see what will happen with their lives. For them to be a part of this at the high school is empowering.”

If Center Grove High School gets the funding, it will help further enrich the educational opportunities available there, Nair said.

The experience of pitching this idea to help those less fortunate is already a useful experience, and any money the school gets because of the students’ efforts will be a secondary benefit, Hammill said.

“We’re really privileged already,” Hammill said. “To come together like this and have a class period to do this, thinking in innovative ways of how we’d do in this field and later in life, I’m already thankful for that.”