Cheshire Engineers Of The Future Take Top Honors At State Fair

CHESHIRE — Over the last several years there has been a national emphasis placed on encouraging more students to participate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). 

Particular focus has been placed on increasing the number of female students who pursue a career in the STEM field, and in Cheshire, the results seem to be paying off.

A total of eight Cheshire students recently participated in the Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair, where middle and high school-aged participants were asked to devise and construct devices with real-world applications. The event, which was held from March 7- 19, was conducted virtually, with presentations and judging done online, however even with the continued restrictions students were able to showcase their creations and receive constructive feedback.

And for some local students, awards were handed out.

Suchita Srinivasan, an eighth-grader at Dodd Middle School, and Avery Fowler, a seventh-grader from St. Bridget School, were two of the 16 finalists chosen to participate in the upcoming Broadcom MASTERS national competition. 

Individual state science fairs have the flexibility to send approximately 10% of projects to Broadcom, however the Connecticut fair decided to only send 16 of the more than 600 projects that were submitted.

Of those that are invited, the top 300 are announced in early September and given a prize pack. The top 30 are then announced later in the month, with the finalists receiving an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in person plus additional prizes for themselves and their school.  

“So many (participants) in the Fair were extremely talented,” said Srinivasan. “One student had created a device to detect whether a child was stuck in a well. I thought my project was really cool, but I knew how many amazing projects there were. I’m just so happy things went the way they did.”

Srinivasan’s submission to the Fair was a domestic violence alert device, designed to try and help those who may be the victim of a violent crime. Srinivasan recalls learning about a classmate who had been the victim of domestic violence, and how hard it was to process what that experience must be like.

“I kept thinking, ‘I wonder what happened to him?’” Srinivasan remembered. “It was just something that really stayed with me.”

The middle-schooler began to think even more about domestic violence during the pandemic, after reading a statistic that showed such incidents had increased dramatically throughout the public health crisis.

The device utilizes an analog sound level meter to detect what would amount to a loud scream. Connected directly to a mobile app, the device then sends a text message to the phone of the individual, informing them that such a sound had been recorded and asking them to verify that they are alright. If the recorded sound had nothing to do with a violent incident, the individual can signal via a text response that everything is OK. If, however, the individual does not respond, a subsequent text would be sent to either the authorities or someone listed as an emergency contact.

For Fowler, the idea for her project stemmed from her own life experiences.

“I have two goats,” explained Fowler. “They are identical and I can’t tell them apart. I was wondering which was which.”

The personal conundrum got the young-Fowler thinking: Was there a low-cost way to easily identify the difference between the two goats and could it then be applied to situations where hundreds of livestock must be identified. Whether it be to access health information to present to a veterinarian or identify a lost goat, the uses are multiple.

“The idea was to have the best working materials at the lowest possible cost,” explained Fowler.

Farmers who have hundreds of livestock can use costly systems to identify their animals and access important information about each one, however Fowler was looking for a way to offer a similar service using already available hardware and software. Initially, she hoped to use the microchips already inserted into her goats, however she found that the technology wasn’t capable. Instead, she turned her attention to using an identification collar and an app that could read the collar.

In order to complete the project, Fowler had to familiarize herself with computer coding, which she admits took some time.

“That was the biggest challenge,” she stated. “I am fairly new to coding, so just coming into this new thing, it took a little bit for me to get (comfortable).”

While Fowler and Srinivasan move on to the finals, other award winners look forward to entering their devices in other upcoming competitions. One of them is well known to Srinivasan — her sister, Sagarika. 

For her project, Sagarika Srinivasan, a junior at Cheshire High School, created a drunk driving detector. The device, connected to the driver’s side of a person’s vehicle, is alerted when a person sits in the seat thereby releasing the device to drop in front of the individual and record their blood-alcohol level via a breathalyzer. If the person is over the limit, an alert is sent to a contact.

Sagarika Srinivasan began thinking about the device after a discussion in her health class last November. 

“We discussed how people have poor judgment … when they are drunk,” said Sagarika, “and how the advice was not to drink and then drive, to get a (designated driver), and more. But I was thinking that, at that moment, so many other things are going through people’s heads. They may feel pressure to say, ‘I’m fine, I can drive.’”

That realization spurred Sagarika Srinivasan on to create a device that would immediately prompt the driver to check their own sobriety, providing them the opportunity to take a moment and make a more informed decision.

For her creation, Sagarika Srinivasan was named a Senior High School Finalist Medallion winner for the Stanley Black & Decker Applied Science Awards. She, along with her sister, will be competing in the upcoming Connecticut Invention Convention.


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