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Fourteen-year-old Sahasra Swargam will compete in October to be 'America's Top Young Scientist' - and win $25k.

SHAILAJA SWARGAM - Sahasra Swargam, 14, is a finalist in this year's 3M Young Scientist Challenge. She will head to Minnesota for the finals in October.Beaverton School District student Sahasra Swargam is one of 10 finalists headed to the Midwest for the national 3M Young Scientist Challenge this fall.

The 14-year-old is working with a mentor this summer to touch up her project and prepare for the competition. A win would earn Swargam $25,000 and the title of "America's Top Young Scientist."

"I'm really excited for it actually, I'm kind of nervous still," said Swargam, who was an eighth-grader at Stoller Middle School when she submitted her project.

Swargam added: "I also know what I'm going to do with my project. I see a clearer view ahead with what I'm going to work on with my mentor and I also have my plans ready. So I feel like it's gonna be fun, and I'm looking forward."

The annual competition is for middle school students in grades 5-8 to think of an innovative solution for a problem in their community or in the world, make a prototype and present their idea in a two-minute video.

Another Beaverton School District student, from Tumwater Middle School, won a state merit award in the competition, too.

Swargam's always been interested in learning about plants and agriculture, and she loves science. When she noticed how upset she was when one of her plants died, Swargam wanted to find a way to help the rest.COURTESY PHOTO: 
SHAILAJA SWARGAM - A screenshot from the video Sahasra Swargam, 14, submitted for the 2022 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Her project discussed the use of AMF, a type of fungi, for fertilizer.

So Swargam's project focused on monitoring different soil conditions for plant growth and using fungi — specifically arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, or AMF — as a natural fertilizer.

Plus, her solution was a cost-effective, natural way to remove carbon from the atmosphere using soil.COURTESY PHOTO: 
SHAILAJA SWARGAM - Sahasra Swargam, 14, points to the three types of soil she used for the project she discussed for the 2022 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Swargam is one of 10 finalists this year.

Next year, Swargam will be a freshman at Westview High School, she said. She's excited for the ninth grade, but right now she's focused on the competition and working with her mentor, who she'll meet in person in the fall.

"The 3M science competition gave me a really great opportunity to showcase my project," she said. "And it gave me a chance to explain my project and … work with a real scientist to enhance and develop it."

Next, Swargam will explain her project in person on Oct. 17 and Oct. 18 in Minnesota — where 3M's headquarters is located — and compete for first place in the national competition.

"It's gonna be exciting," she said.

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