National Science Competition

Ohio 13-Year-Old Wins $25K in 2016 Young Scientist Challenge


Maanasa Mendu, left, won the Young Scientist Challenge Tuesday. Her 3M mentor, Margaux Mitera, is on her right.

A 13-year-old ninth grader from Mason, OH has won the 2016 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge in St. Paul, MN.

Maanasa Mendu won $25,000 and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist” immediately following a live competition Tuesday at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul. Nine other finalists from across the country competed in the scientist challenge, which paired the students with 3M scientists to develop practical inventions.

Mendu, a student at William Mason High School in the Mason City School District, created Harvest, a bio-inspired energy device that uses solar and wind power to create energy. This innovation was inspired by a visit to India where she discovered many people lacking basic life necessities, such as clean water and lighting.

Through her invention, Mendu hopes to provide a globally applicable, cost-effective energy source. Mendu’s approach reflected the competition’s goal of applying science to everyday life, creating a solution that may improve lives and strengthen communities around the globe.

Over the past three months, Mendu and the nine other finalists had the opportunity to work with a 3M scientist to develop their personal inventions as part of a summer mentorship program. Mendu was paired with Margaux Mitera, a 3M senior product development engineer whose research has helped 3M develop new Post-it Note products.

During the final competition hosted by Discovery Education Vice President Lance Rougeux, the finalists presented their completed inventions to a respected panel of scientists and leaders from both Discovery Education and 3M, including honorary guest judge Trace Dominguez, who’s producer, writer and host of Discovery’s DNews program.

“Each year, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge reminds us of the inspiring ingenuity that results when we empower our youngest generation to apply science, critical thinking and creativity to solve real world problems,” Bill Goodwyn, president and CEO of Discovery Education, said in a statement.

The remaining nine finalists also received prizes from Discovery Education and 3M. Second through fourth place winners each received $1,000 and a trip to a taping of a show on Discovery’s family of networks. These winners are:

  • Rohan Wagh of Portland, OR, a ninth grader at Sunset High School, who received second place for his invention that utilizes the natural metabolism of bacteria to create energy;
  • Kaien Yang of Chantilly, VA, an eighth grader at Nysmith School for the Gifted, who received third place for his innovation that uses pumpkin seed oil to create both a biodiesel and bioplastic that reduces emissions and pollution from plastic;
  • Amelia Day of Summer, WA, a ninth grader at Sumner High School, who received fourth place for her invention that uses sensory feedback to help rebuild neural connections inside the brain during rehabilitation.

The fifth through 10th place winners each received $1,000 and a $500 Excitations gift card. These finalists, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Meghna Behari of Swickley, PA, an eighth grader at Marshall Middle School;
  • Mrinali Kesavadas of Mahomet, IL, a ninth grader at Mahomet-Seymour High School;
  • Rohit Mital of Rochester Hills, MI, a ninth grader at Adams High School;
  • Sara Makboul of Acworth, GA, a ninth grader at Kennesaw Mountain High School;
  • Sofia Tomov of Knoxville, TN, an eighth grader who is homeschooled;
  • Will Paschal of Madison, GA, a ninth grader at Morgan County High School.

Since its inception in 2008, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes, paired students with world-renowned scientists to give them real world insights and offered science resources to millions of students, teachers and families across the country, according to a news release.

Winners have gone on to be featured in Forbes magazine’s annual “30 Under 30” list, meet the president of the United States, speak before Congress and demonstrate their inventions on national TV shows such as “ABC World News Tonight,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “Fox & Friends.”

For more information about the competition and the finalists, visit

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].