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Beaverton students in Washington County among best in nation in math, science

Two young Beaverton students are earning national recognition for their smarts in math and science.

It's no secret that Washington County is home to some of the state's best science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs for youth, but middle schoolers Samyak Shrimali and Suyash Pandit are living proof of that.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAMIAN STROHMEYER - PanditSuyash Pandit

After he and his Cedar Park Middle School team won the 2019 Oregon state MATHCOUNTS competition in March, Suyash Pandit found himself on the main stage again this May, this time as a finalist in the individual competition. After several grueling questions, Pandit finished second in the annual Raytheon MATHCOUNTS National Competition on May 13 in Orlando, Florida.

"I just really didn't expect that," Pandit said from his Beaverton home, recalling being one of two middle schoolers left on stage.

The national competition features a team portion and individual portion. Contestants find themselves working through a written exam and solving math problems in a live, "bee" style format, according to Raytheon, the sponsor of the annual competition. Pandit was one of 224 contestants who participated in Florida.

At the end of the day, Pandit left with a medal and a trophy for his second place win. Daniel Mai of Massachusetts took first place.

The teen, who will start ninth grade at Sunset High School in a few months, said working through the nerves was half the battle.

"I guess it was just getting up there, getting used to it," Pandit said. "I had never done anything like it before, and I was sitting up there on stage in front of a few hundred people. The competition in general is really well organized. There are only a few people who work full time for the organization. It's amazing how they're able to pull off such a big event and organize it so well."

MATHCOUNTS called Pandit "the underdog from Oregon."

Now on summer break, he's celebrating his achievements by relaxing, sort of.

"I'm taking a little break," Pandit said. "I have an online class going on, Numbers Theory."

While he's still making time to crunch numbers while school's out, he's also making time to travel, noting he was preparing for a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

PHOTO COURTESY OF 3M - ShrimaliSamyak Shrimali

He hasn't started high school yet, but Samyak Shrimali already is working on an invention to help stop the spread of germs and save lives.

Shrimali, 14, was named one of the top 10 finalists in 3M's Young Scientist Challenge. The competition, sponsored by 3M and Discovery Education, recognizes and rewards students in grades five through eight, who create an innovative project or that will improve lives both in their local communities and globally, using scientific thinking, according to the contest's marketing firm.

Shrimali is working on a sensor-based system that could be used in hospitals to track hand hygiene and reduce nosocomial infections.

His endeavor came after a family trip abroad, the teen said.

"Last summer, when I visited India, due to family reasons we had to visit a hospital," Shrimali recalled. "My mom got an infection."

He said infections like the one his mother developed can be traced back to improper hand washing among hospital staff and visitors.

So, Shrimali took it upon himself to seek a solution.

"Improper hand hygiene is one of the main reasons people develop nosocomial infections," the young inventor said. The term relates to any infection that begins in a hospital. "It's based on various sensors. ... Basically I have four modules that work together in a hospital."

Shrimali, who attended Valley Catholic Middle School when he began his project, will start at Jesuit High School this fall. His parents work at Intel and he said he's been inspired by their engineering backgrounds.

Using hand hygiene guidelines from the World Health Organization, Shrimali's sensor system will use a bracelet worn by staff and visitors to sense when someone gets within a close proximity of a patient's bed. When they come within five meters, a system will alert them to complete an alcohol rub of their hands.

Radio-frequency identification, or RFID, tags and Arduino microcontrollers make up a wristband module that uses sensors and collects data throughout the process.

"All of this data is being sent back to the server and the server can track how many times the staff has not done the following things and it will make the hospital better," Shrimali explained. "This is a very big problem in our society right now. We could prevent about 90,000 deaths a year."

Shrimali submitted a video describing his invention, and as a top 10 finalist, has already secured $1,000 and has been paired with a 3M mentor to work with, who's helped him fine-tune his project via Skype video conference sessions.

In October, he'll travel to 3M's Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he'll take part in a final competition for the chance to win a grand prize of $25,000 and the title of "America's Top Young Scientist."

Last year, fellow Beaverton student Rishab Jain won the 3M top prize for his efforts to develop a tool that uses artificial intelligence to detect and treat pancreatic cancer.

"I just want to be an innovator and solve some of the world's toughest problems," Shrimali said.


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