COLUMBIA — Four Rock Bridge High School seniors worked more than 100 hours each this past summer to enter the prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.
Katelyn Race and Atreyo Ghosh worked on a proposal that could prevent arsenic contamination in water, potentially preventing cancer and other disorders in Third World countries.
Nidhi Khurana and Raj Satpathy worked alongside Ping Yu, associate professor in the MU Department of Physics and Astronomy, on an inexpensive bio-imaging system that uses a bar code scanner to take images on a cellular level, potentially making biomedical imaging less costly.
The four seniors submitted scientific papers outlining their proposals to the Siemens competition and were among the 93 regional finalists selected from a pool of 2,255 registered student entries.
As regional finalists — the only ones from Missouri — the teams traveled to University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., to present their projects last week. Although neither team was chosen to advance to the national finals in Washington, D.C., each student received a $1,000 scholarship.
Chairman of the Siemens Foundation Board Tom McCausland said having multiple finalists from one school doesn't happen often, and he thinks it is an accomplishment.
"There must be something in the water in Columbia," he joked. "They are just superb young people, and I think it's a real testament to the teachers in the school system there that these young folks are capable of doing this kind of work. "
The students said there was a friendly competitive spirit rather than a cutthroat dynamic at the competition in Indiana. Ghosh said that after the presentations, many of the participants would unwind by watching television in the hotel lobby or relaxing in the hotel's sauna.
"While I was disappointed that we didn't win and didn't go to nationals, I was still happy for everyone that won, and I really don't mind that we didn't win," Ghosh said. "It was a good experience all and all, and that's good enough for me."
Besides friendships, these local seniors also developed confidence in their abilities.
"One lesson (I learned) is definitely not to underestimate or undersell myself," Satpathy said. "Honestly, when we submitted our project, I never thought that we would be selected to actually go on to the regional finals. So being able to do that made me be more confident in my scientific aptitude and abilities. To any potential Siemen competitors, I would definitely say go for it because you never know."
"I think that this competition broadened my horizons more," Khurana said. "It gave me a reaffirmation that I can do anything I want."
Race said she better understands the importance of finding her passion.
"Everyone wants to have a job that pays well so they can have what they want and supply for their family, " Race said. "But you really have to find the job that really inspires you in what you're doing."
Siemens' McCausland said he hopes competitions like this can continue to reward and encourage students who invest their time in science, math and technology in the future.
"The great thing is (the competition is) fun to do and it's very rewarding," McCausland said. "(The students) can have a great career and contribute very significantly to resolve problems that can help mankind."
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.