By Jethro Swain
Science projects are a foundational piece of OES. The Aardvark Science Expo serves as the first step in what can be a long journey for students who dedicate themselves to their projects, and this week, Vineet E. put himself in the science record books.
With his project “Development of a High-Performance Biodegradable Battery for Transient Electronics”, Vineet went as a finalist to the Siemens Competition in Washington D.C. where he competed against five other regional finalists for the $100,000 dollar scholarship grand prize.
Tuesday morning, 12pm Eastern Time for Vineet and 9am Pacific Time for OES, Vineet stood up on stage next to the other finalists, and OES students and faculty nervously watched. The big viewing party was in the Platt global classroom, where science teachers and technology coordinators collaborated to set up the stream on the TV screens. However, in my AB Calculus class, I found the live stream on twitter and began watching at the beginning of the group project awards (sorry Lauren).
When the presentation of the individual finalists came on, my Calculus class gathered around the phones of me and Anna K. Our screams of excitement continually increased from 6th to 5th to 4th place when we didn’t hear Vineet’s name being called. As it came down to the top two finalists, Vineet and Manan Shah from California, we could hardly contain our excitement. The only person who could contain their excitement, was Vineet.
“I honestly wasn’t worried about where I’d place at the beginning of the ceremony,” Vineet told me. “It might be hard to believe but there was so little stratification. Everybody’s work and presentations were so good that we had no clue where we’d place. I did get a tad nervous when I saw the twitter feed of people at OES watching though. I wanted to make sure I represented OES well.”
I’m pretty sure that Vineet could have walked up on stage with a gold chain, cut-off sleeves, and a tattoo on his bicep, and OES still would have thought he represented them well. The Oregonian, Fox 12, and other news stations have all been talking about Vineet’s outstanding accomplishment, and it all started from the Aardvark Science Expo.
“I was definitely proud of the work I had done,” he told me when I asked if he thought that when he first began his project would have come this far. “I didn’t have any expectations to go a long way. I think what definitely helped me improve along the way was all the opportunities to present and practice, like the Aardvark Science Expo, ISEF, JSHS, OES science symposium, etc.”
Ironically, Vineet only got third place in his category at ISEF. “Since a lot of the process is judging, which is subjective, luck can play into it. Siemens places a lot of emphasis on the research paper which I guess made me a better fit for their competition.”
After submitting his project to the Siemens Competition, and winning the Northwest Region, Vineet traveled to Washington D.C. to present in the finals, where he met all of the other finalists from the group and individual competitions. “We had the opportunity to become really close,” said Vineet about all the other students, “We all stayed in the same hotel, did the same planned activities, and of course watched each other’s presentations. For example small groups of us went to various memorials in D.C., did research on the history, and made short videos, which gave us a chance to get to know each other. We also went to a Brazilian steakhouse and had an informal eating competition.” The friendship among the group showed when on stage, after each finisher was announced, they would huddle up and congratulate whoever’s name had just been called. “I think the peer group is a huge part of what made the experience so memorable.”
In his free time Vineet was able to enjoy D.C. and hangout with his fellow competitors, but there was also a lot of presenting to be done. They started with a poster session, similar to the Aardvark Science Expo, where the local students, other parents, and Siemens executives could learn about all of the projects. The judging portion of the competition, however, was limited to the judges, fellow finalists and their parents, all seated in an auditorium. Then, following their presentations, each contestant had a Q&A session, where they were taken into a separate room with only the judges.
After that, all that was left was for the judges to make a decision and present the checks.
Thanks to Liz’s stats class, I could deduct that when Vineet was one of two finalists left on stage, he had a 50% chance of winning and the excitement in the Calc classroom was palpable. When we heard not-Vineet’s name called, everybody screamed at the top of their lungs, shaking the entire second floor of the DC. Underclassmen peered into our classroom wondering what was going on. Someone from outside yelled at us to be quiet, but shame on them.
The reaction in the Platt Global Classroom was the same, and the energy throughout the school the rest of the day was electric, and it traveled all the way across the country to Vineet, “Lots of people were in contact during the competition and of course during the awards. I saw OES posting support on the twitter feed Siemens showed. Afterwards I got lots of congratulatory messages from members of the community.”
Now Vineet is back at school, enjoying the snow day like everyone else and focusing on college like I should be. But what’s next for Vineet? Possibly more importantly, will he play a full tennis season this year? “That’s the big question,” he told me. “The dates coincide so we’ll see what happens.” As far as continuing with his project or even doing another one goes though, “I still have some time. There are other competitions I’m planning on doing so that’ll be fun. But since I’ve gone to ISEF twice already (the competition that always gets in the way of tennis state and districts), I may not do that one.”
Vineet has shown all of us that if there’s something he wants to accomplish, whether it’s tennis, science, or anything in between, he can go out and do it, and we’re all proud to have him as a member of our community.
Congratulations Vineet on winning the Siemens Competition and the $100,000 scholarship!