Center Grove High School Students Use STEM Skills to Tackle Real-Life Problems
Students at Center Grove High School hope to change the lives of those around them in Johnson County and beyond through Project Lead the Way.
With the help of their teacher, Andrea Teevan, three young ladies are currently making national news by advancing in the tenth annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest.
Seniors Mahek Agrawal, Madison Hammill and Athulya Nair made the list of national contest finalists, securing their place in the next level of the competition. The contest encourages students in grades 6 through 12 to use science, technology, engineering and math skills to solve an issue in their community. Out of more than 2,000 initial entries, 100 were chosen as state winners. Only 20 were chosen to compete at the national level and win a $50,000 technology and resources package for the school being represented.
Nair says she and her two classmates came up with a plan to focus on insulation – a significant challenge for those living in mobile homes.
“We’re trying to make it so that mobile homes have more insulation, because typically, right now there’s not much, if any, insulation in their houses,” Nair says. “We want to make it so it’s more easily accessible for them to use themselves, instead of having to have another person come in and install it for them.”
The prototype that Agrawal, Hammill and Nair created consists of four layers, and uses the chemical reaction between sodium polyacrylate and water to create a gel with a high R-value (which is the measure of how well a barrier such as insulation resists heat).
“They took it upon themselves and they ran with it,” Teevan says of the three students. “They’re truly just young adults, but they are so mature beyond the average classroom student. They’re super smart and can have a conversation. They went out and got their own resources for it.”
Agrawal says the goal is to have the insulation packaged, so that it only needs water to activate. It will also have an adhesive backing to make the product easy to apply directly to walls.
“The idea is that this plastic would actually let water molecules through, and the powder is already inside, so you just spray it with water and get the gel wet so it insulates,” Agrawal says.
According to the seniors’ submission video, their product, which they say could come in either small squares or in a large, rolled format, could help decrease heat loss in mobile homes by 63%.
The trio will have the opportunity to present their prototype and solution to a panel of Samsung judges in New York City, and compete for one of the top five winning spots. Those five will win $100,000 in Samsung technology and classroom materials, and earn a trip to Washington, D.C., for a presentation to a congressional panel.
In addition to helping the students navigate the Samsung challenge, Teevan teaches Project Lead the Way courses in biomedical science and biomedical innovations – a career track that all three seniors have been a part of since entering high school.
Through the process of elimination and the requirement to participate in a senior internship, students graduating from the biomedical science program gain real-life experiences, and begin to focus their career paths before college.
As part of their coursework, Center Grove biomedical science students participate in observational internships in the medical field. Teevan says these opportunities wouldn’t be possible without the partnership of community leaders and decision-makers at hospitals and medical offices on the south side, including Community Hospital South, Franciscan Health Indianapolis and several others.
Students like Katelyn Jansen, who hopes to major in biomedical engineering in college, set out on a two-month internship that puts the students on a rotation. Since she hasn’t decided on a specific medical career path, Janson hopes to get the most out of her time at Community Hospital South.
“I’d really enjoy doing oncology, pediatrics or emergency medicine,” Jansen says.
The biomedical courses complement what students are learning in other classes, and offer the ability to put those skills to the test. In addition to the internships, seniors are tasked with a final project that relates to their desired medical focus.
Jansen says she’s developing a mobile application that would provide exercise programs that target specific areas of the body. The idea behind the application is to give people a platform full of tutorials, tips and workouts.
Additionally, Nair, Hammill and Agrawal are working on their own independent senior projects for Project Lead the Way. Agrawal says she plans to utilize the insulation concept to develop a blanket. Nair is toying with the idea of creating semi-dissolvable bandages that contain agents vital to the healing process. Hammill is focusing on designing a walking boot that would make ankle injury recovery safer for the entire body.
With so many options and so many medical solutions still to be discovered, Project Lead the Way courses are giving students access to community leaders and resources to jumpstart their career paths. With the addition of the Samsung challenge, Teevan and her seniors have elevated Center Grove to the national stage with the hopes of solving a real-life problem that’s impacting those right in their own backyard.
For more info on Project Lead the Way, visit pltw.org.