An Interview with America's Top Young Scientist
Meet Maanasa Mendu. She's the 14-year-old scientist from Mason, Ohio who is well on her way to earning a place among Marie Curie, Rachel Carson, and many of the greats. Maanasa was recently named America’s Top Young Scientist (casual!) in the annual Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. For her project, Maanasa designed an affordable $5 device that is capable of generating clean energy from sun, wind and rain. Her innovation was inspired by a trip to India where she found many people didn't have clean water and lighting. We'll let her tell you the rest!
Girls & Co: Congratulations on being named America's Top Young Scientist! Tell us about your science project.
Maanasa: My device (HARVEST) is a bio-inspired energy device that captures energy in the form of wind, rain and sun, and converts it to power. This innovation was inspired by a visit to India where I discovered many people lacking basic life necessities such as clean water and lighting. Through HARVEST, my goal is to provide a globally applicable, cost-effective energy source.
What's the best part of being a young scientist?
You can try anything. There no limitations or expectations on your work.
Many of the girls in the Girls & Co community are interested in the sciences. What advice would you give a future young scientist?
My biggest piece of advice is to try stuff, and ultimately believe in yourself! Even though an idea may seem crazy, you may never know whether it may change a person's life. Remember to take risks! If you have an idea or a problem to solve, don’t hesitate to sketch out a model or build a prototype just using common household materials. When people don’t believe in you or even when you don't believe in yourself, you must be brave and go for it. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish when you put your fears aside. Everyone has the potential to change the world for the better and the hard part is they just have to harness it!
What was your first science project ever?
My first science fair project was really simple: testing vitamin C content of different fruits. I was really surprised by the fact that strawberries had more vitamin C than oranges ;)
What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?
Try new things!
What's an important lesson that you learned when you were younger that is still relevant now?
The most important lesson I learned is that hard work and never giving up definitely pay off.
What makes a great scientist?
A great scientist is one who is passionate and always asking questions to either understand or improve the world around them. Along with that, a great scientist builds upon the work of others and shares their discoveries.
Who is your favorite teacher and why?
My favorite teacher was my middle school physics teacher because he made science engaging through humor, demonstrations, and just taking science beyond classroom walls.
We're starting a book club! What are your favorite books?
Little Women, Harry Potter, Dark Matter, Ready Player One, Pride and Prejudice
Inspired by Maanasa's story? The 2017 Young Scientist Challenge is now open for entries! Nudge nudge. You can check out Maanasa's entry video below for some extra inspiration!