Hickman High School senior Anand Palaniappan hasn’t had much sleep lately. This is not because he fears an asteroid might destroy the planet, but because of the work he has done to make sure that doesn’t happen.
This weekend, Palaniappan will compete in the Midwestern Regional Finals of the Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology. The event, which will take place at the University of Notre Dame, is a science research competition for high school students. Palaniappan helped develop a project in connection with the University of Hawaii’s Pan-Starrs Project, which studies asteroids and comets. Palaniappan created a new computational algorithm that automatically tracks dangerous comets and asteroids.
“By finding new asteroids, you can determine if they are on a collision course with Earth,” he said.
Palaniappan is one of 14 regional finalists competing for a $3,000 scholarship and a place in the national finals in Washington, D.C., where the grand prize is $100,000.
The project has helped to sharpen his mathematical and computer science skills, Palaniappan said. He is aware he will be competing against students who also have good projects.
“I’m going in confident in my project,” he said. “I’m happy I got this far.”
Palaniappan is a member of the Boy Scouts of America and the National Honor Society. He has participated in the Science Olympiad, NSA U.S. Math Talent Search, Quiz Bowl and Science Bowl.