The winner of the annual Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology is only seventeen years old. Perhaps more impressively, the project that won Maria Grimmett the gold medal for a solo participant is one she began in the 6th grade. For six years, she’s studied and experimented with water purification, inspired by her family’s own substandard well water. And now her dedication has won her the top prize and a $100,000 college scholarship.
The competition, hosted at George Washington University in Washington D.C., is an annual look at the brightest up-and-comings. The finalists and winners were selected from a pool of more than 1,700 student project submissions, judged by a panel of highly renowned scientists and mathematicians. All national finalists (six individuals and six teams) received scholarships and silver medals.
Kimberly Te and Christine Yoo, from Manhasset High School, New York, won gold for their team project. Their goal was to find more cost-effective resources for cleaning up oil spills, and not only did they zero in on an all-natural absorbant to soak up and denature the oil, they took that one step further by turning the resultant contaminated material into a source of clean energy. Together, they estimate their project took more than 1,500 hours of work, on top of their busy high school schedules.
Together Te, Yoo, and Grimmett mark only the second time when women have taken all of the gold medals in the 16-year history of the competition. Each one of them credits early encouragement in the sciences from parents and teachers alike.
To be eligible for the Siemens Competition, high school students must be US citizens or permanent residents. Only seniors are eligible as individual entrants, but group members may be in any grade 9-12.
Regional finalists (30 individual and 30 groups per region) are selected by a blind jury based on their research reports. Those projects are then brought to one of the six partner universities (Caltech, UT Austin, Notre Dame, Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Ga. Tech) to be presented in a science-fair-like environment. From each region, one individual and one group is selected to go to the finals in D.C, winning an all-expenses-paid trip for the occasion.