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Jacksonville Student Among 10 Finalists In National ‘Young Scientist’ Competition

Winner of the 2019 3M Young Scientist Challenge Kara Fan presenting her project.
Winner of the 2019 3M Young Scientist Challenge Kara Fan presenting her project.

A middle school girl from Jacksonville is among ten finalists for the 2021 3M Young Scientist Challenge, which has a $25,000 grand prize.

The 14th annual competition, organized by Discovery Education and 3M, is for students in grades 5-8 who use science to create something that could help improve lives in their local communities and globally.

Bolles student Sarah Park is developing a personalized music therapy treatment for mental health disorders, which have become more prevalent during the coronavirus pandemic.

“One of the existing solutions is medication, which increases levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine,” Park said. “However, listening to music releases these same hormones and is very effective as treatment.”

Park’s invention, which she’s calling Spark Care+, uses machine learning and sensors to find the best music to treat a patient’s mental health condition.

The ten finalists include students from public and private schools across the country. Each finalist will be given $1,000 and will participate in a mentorship with a 3M scientist.

“The 3M Young Scientist Challenge demonstrates the transformative power of young minds to address global challenges by combining their unique and diverse perspectives on innovation, creativity, and a passion for a better world,” said Denise Rutherford, senior vice president and chief corporate affairs officer for 3M, in an email to WJCT News.

On October 18-19, Park and the nine other finalists will be evaluated on a series of challenges, including a presentation of their completed project. Each challenge will be scored independently by a group of diverse judges. The winner will get $25,000, a two-day trip organized by 3M and Discovery Education, and the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”

“Empowering young minds to solve the world’s challenges through STEM is what the Young Scientist Challenge is all about,” said Lori McFarling, president of corporate partnerships and social impact at Discovery Education. “We celebrate each of the finalists and honorable mention recipients and look forward to the final event at 3M’s global headquarters October 19th.”

The ten finalists are:

  • Abhinav Anne, Naperville, Ill., Clifford Crone Middle School, Indian Prairie Community Unit School District 204

  • Samarth Mahapatra, Marietta, Ga., Dodgen Middle School, Cobb County High School Area 1

  • Snigtha Mohanraj, West Haven, Conn., Engineering and Science University Magnet School, New Haven Public School District

  • Veda Murthy, Herndon, Va., Rachel Carson Middle School, Fairfax County Public School District

  • Viraj Pandey, San Jose, Calif., Bret Harte Middle School, San Jose Unified School District

  • Sarah Park, Jacksonville, Fla., Bolles School-Bartram, Private

  • Moitri Santra, Oviedo, Fla., Jackson Heights Middle School, Seminole County Public School District

  • Danielle Steinbach, San Jose, Calif., Harker Middle School, Private

  • Aadrit Talukdar, San Jose, Calif., Basis Independent Silicon Valley, Private

  • Sydney Zhang, San Diego, Calif., Mesa Verde Middle School, Poway Unified School District

Thirty state merit winners and four honorable mentions are also being recognized.
Here’s more information on the competition and details on the participants.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.