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Gen next come to the fore in America

Last updated on: June 12, 2010 01:55 IST

Gen next come to the fore in America

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Anamika Veeramani, 14, an eighth grader from Incarnate Word Academy in Parma Heights, Ohio won the National Spelling Bee.

Shantanu S Srivatsa, 13, an eighth grader at Cheney Middle School, West Fargo, North Dakota, lost to Anamika in the last round.

This is the third consecutive year an Indian American has won the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Last year, Kavya Shivasankar of Kansas had won the contest while in 2008, Sameer Mishra became the champion.

Other Indian American winners in the past are: Anurag Kashyap (2005); Sai R. Gunturi (2003); Pratyush Buddiga (2002); George Abraham Thampy (2000); Nupur Lala (1999); Rageshree Ramachandran (1988); Balu Natarajan (1985).

Anamika spelt a number of tough words correctly in the first round including nahcolitenahcolite; epiphysisepiphysis; juvia; stromuhr "I am very, very happy to win the spelling bee," she said immediately after her victory.


Image: Anamika Veeramani

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Saumil Jariwala makes a mark as a 2010 Presidential Scholar

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Saumil Jariwala, one of the six Indian American high school students out of 141 outstanding scholars named as 2010 Presidential Scholars, is excited about going to the White House to receive the Presidential Scholars medallion.

Last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the selection of 141 outstanding high school seniors, who demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service and contribution to school and community, as the 2010 Presidential Scholars.

"It is a privilege to be included in such an accomplished group who are passionate about not only developing themselves to their highest potential, but also making a significant impact on their schools and communities,"  Saumil, 18, a student of the North Carolina School of Science & Mathematics in Raleigh, said. "It is an honor to be recognized by my country, and it encourages me to continue to work hard and pursue my passions."

The other Indian-American scholars are Pooja K Shah, Irvington High School, Fremont, California; Suraj Kannan, DuPont Manual Magnet High School, Louisville, Kentucky; Raj M Katti, Minnetonka High School, Excelsior, Minnesota; Samita Mohanasundaram, Nashua Senior High School North, Nashua, New Hampshire, and Dedeepya Konuthula, Old Bridge High School, Old Bridge, New Jersey.

Saumil was not aiming to win any medal. "I just pursued the things that interested me, and winning the award came as a pleasant surprise," he said. What interested him was science outreach. Earlier this year, he won the MIT THINK national research competition, which focuses on research by high school students that makes a positive impact on the community. 
"My project was creating a high school lab investigation involving the transformation of stem cells," Saumil said. "The result is a very visual classroom activity where mouse stem cells become cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells), changing in morphology and fluorescence. The most obvious physical change is that the cells begin to beat physically pulsate just like your heart does. This lab could be used in high school biology courses to get students interested in stem cell research and cellular biology. Later in the summer, I plan to take this lab to high schools in West Philadelphia so that teachers there can use this lab in the classroom environment."

The son of a doctor, Saumil said that although science and mathematics were his forte, and he admired the medical profession, he always connected better with business and law. In the fall, he will  attend the Huntsman Program at the University of Pennsylvania, a dual-degree program that combines Wharton undergraduate business with international studies.

"My goal is to be a biotechnology entrepreneur with specific interest in the developing world, modifying advancements made in the laboratory to cater to developing markets and to improve the lives of people in developing nations," he said.
Saumil, who was born and raised in Raleigh, said he had enormous support along the way from his twin brother Akhil, his teachers and friends. "But my strongest influence has definitely been my parents. They taught me the value of hard work and determination," he said. 

Image: Saumil Jariwala

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Akhil Jariwala leads his school to National Science Bowl victory

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Akhil Jariwala, a graduating student from the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, presided over the winning team in the National Science Bowl, in Washington, DC last month. The Department of Energy's Science Bowl is a buzzer-based competition like Jeopardy in which students from high schools answer questions in all branches of science and math.

"Winning the National Science Bowl is a great honor; it puts an exclamation point on my high school career," said Akhil, whose twin brother Saumil won the presidential scholarship last month. "I have worked very hard in all of my science classes these last four years and I have done a lot of other science-related extracurricular (activities) in high school. To win Science Bowl, I had to draw back from all those activities. It was a unique experience to be able to compete with the best science students in the country. It was special to share that moment with my teammates who have become some of my best friends."

First Lady Michelle Obama attended the event. 'I had to study just to read the questions,' she said. 'So, I know you all have put in a lot of work. By competing in this event, you are sharpening the skills that have consistently moved our country forward The President and I and he is fully aware that I am here. I went over some of the questions with him. He didn't know many of the answers Neither did I. But we are both so very proud of all of you.'

Akhil said he did not get a chance to talk to the First Lady one-on-one, but shook hands with her. "It meant a lot to me and the rest of the team that she was there because it ensured us that academics are just important to our country as athletics."

He said his team's success could best be attributed to the fact that they didn't approach Science Bowl to win. "We were in it because we had so much fun together answering science questions and learning science," he added. "One thing that helped us was the fact that we did a lot of other things for fun on the side. During some practices we would watch episodes of Good Eats from the Food Network, a show that combines food science with cooking lessons I would teach a little astrophysics or chemistry or earth science to both non-team members and team members, just because I enjoyed teaching."

Akhil said his role model was his older brother Nikhil, who got him to start thinking about doing science competitions. "He
has taught me to remember my friends and family in everything I do," he said. "He has spurred my passion to become a doctor, and he has encouraged me to never underestimate myself."

Next year, he will be attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead-Cain Scholar, dedicated to giving students a diverse undergraduate education. "I would like to get involved with global health," he said. "One thing that all human beings can agree with, regardless of their religious, ethnic, or political tilt, is the fact that our health is important to us I want to be a part of an international effort to heal the less fortunate of our world. I hope I can figure out exactly what that will be in my undergraduate years."

Image: Akhil Jariwala

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National Geographic Bee winner wants to travel to outer space

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Aadith Moorthy, who wants to be a physicist like Stephen Hawking, took top honors at the 2010 National Geographic Bee in Washington, DC, last week.

Aadith, 13, an eighth-grader at the Palm Harbor Middle School in Florida, beat about five million students nationwide to be eligible to participate in the national competition. He snatched the title out of 10 contests in the final round.
His ability to give the current name of the largest city in northern Haiti, rechristened after Haiti's independence from France, sealed his championship. The answer, 'Cap-Ha tien,' earned him a $25,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society and a trip to the Galapagos Islands. "It feels really good," Aadith said. "It is a relief now that the competition is over."

He said he was not very confident before the competition, but developed it as the event progressed. "I took a deep breath and told myself that it is OK," he added. "I should be able to answer them and I was lot more confident during the championship round. I was a state finalist last year, but could not make it to the national stage."
Aadith, who was born in Bangalore, came to the United States when he was barely a month old. His interest in geography stems from his travels around the world. "I have travelled to many parts of the world with my parents, to places like France, Australia and Singapore," he said. "That is how I think I developed my interest in the subject." He sets aside a couple of hours everyday to study geography, maps and atlases to look for places around the world that he has not visited so far. "It's is a passion," he added.

Aadith said he had no other ambition in life but to become a physicist "I have a telescope at home and I look at the stars every night; the stars inspire me," he said. "I want to be a physicist like Hawking and go to outer space."
He is also an accomplished Carnatic music singer. Every summer, he goes to Bangalore for lessons, and even gives concerts.

Aadith was not the only Indian American at the competition. Karthik Mouli's third place win at the competition was a measure of Indian-American students' increasing prominence in national contests. The sixth-grader from Hillside Junior High School, Idaho, got a $10,000 college scholarship. The other Indian-American finalists, who won $500 each, were Pranav Bhandarkar, 13, of Georgia; Abhinav Kurada, 11, of Massachusetts and Vansh Jain, 11, of Wisconsin.

Image: Aadith Moorthy

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Neil Motwani, Elka Chowdhury know No Boundaries

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A New Jersey middle school team, which included Neil Motwani and Elka Chowdhury, won top honors at the 2010 No Boundaries National Competition organized by National Aeronautics and Space Administration and USA Today. Neil, Elka, Kristine Baltazar and Jenna DiRito's winning entry, 'Let's Get Materialistic,' focused on materials engineering and won with an old-fashion styled black and white art portfolio.

"I was intrigued by the career of a materials engineer," Neil, a seventh grader, said. "I had never heard of a materials engineer before, and once I realized how much they affect our daily lives, by creating all the simple things people take for granted I felt this competition would be very unique. I have always wanted to do something in the medical field, but after learning so much about materials engineering, I find the topic really intriguing. Everything that they do is so different and life-changing that I have honestly now considered pursuing a career in this field."

Elka, an eight grader, said, "I am still unsure of what I want to pursue in life. But when I am ready to make my decision, I will definitely keep in mind a career in NASA. The participation in the No Boundaries competition has opened my eyes to materials engineering."  The students worked in small groups or individually to develop projects that market STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers at NASA to teens.

"Each team member had specific obligations," said Marilyn Hamot Ryan, coordinator, Gifted Programming, Saddle Brook Board of Education. "While Neil researched the ceramics component of materials engineering, Elka was responsible for clothing and composites. Jenna studied metals and Kristine defined plastics."  USA Today will present the first place winners with a $2,000 cash prize, while NASA will provide them a VIP guest tour of the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

For both Neil and Elka, their biggest role models are their parents. Neil said he would also like to do something with his interest in art. "Creating something unique, a sculpture, perhaps, would be one of my dreams," he said. Elka said she has many dreams, but the most important one is to be able one day to help people irrespective of whatever profession she chooses. "Whether it's incredibly small, or extremely huge, it is important for me," she said. "I think every moment in life is precious; I don't intend to waste it."

Like Neil, she is interested in the arts. "I am really interested in music. I don't live a day without listening to some type of music," she added. 'We are very impressed by the efforts of all the entrants,' said Jerry Hartman, education lead for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. 'By participating in No Boundaries, these young men and women are learning what it takes to be part of the next generation of explorers.

Image: Neil Motwani

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