Even though I have achieved fifth place in the nation and second place in NYC at chess championships, participated in seven school clubs and teams last year, skipped first grade, won first place at a debate tournament, I think my success in robotics was the most impressive. In seventh grade, I decided to participate on the robotics team, which led to lots of scientific testing, fun, and glory.
The main reason I am most pleased with my success on the robotics team is that of the awards I won. Ironically, I did not work on anything robot-related; rather, I was assigned to work on “the project.” The project competition was about presenting a solution to the theme, “trash trek,” in which we had to create a solution to an environmentally harmful piece of trash; my partner Kristoff and I made a commitment to participate in this event. We chose Styrofoam as our piece of trash, and our solution was a bit of an oddball. Through our meaningful research, Kristoff and I discovered a creative and effective way to shrink and remove Styrofoam from our world utilizing limonene (a citrus extract) and mealworms (a type of worm that can eat Styrofoam).
In presenting our solution at the project competition, we earned our team first place and an invitation to the city championships. At the city championships, we won first place again and were invited to enter into an innovation competition which took place in a professional setting, an office building. Again, we won first place and were invited to apply to the national competition. At this point, the competition intensified and the judges did not select our application in the top 20 out of a field of 400 entries. Although we did not make it to the national competition, we won first place three times and achieved what we could never have imagined.
When I began conducting the research, I had no idea what I would learn. However, when I started reading about mealworms and citrus chemicals, something clicked inside of my brain. I liked it! This was what I dreamed of, using chemicals and scientific equipment, and becoming a scientist. Even better, I was working on something that could help the environment, which I am crazy about; I am an environmental “freak.” I keep trying to influence my mom to install solar panels, and I am close to succeeding.
This series of achievements gave me a feeling that I have rarely experienced in my life. I felt that I could change the world. I felt exhilarated, excited, and powerful. Since I am an environmental freak, and I like inventing things, it made me feel if I implemented this technique to destroy Styrofoam, I could slow down global warming and have an impact on the world. In fact, if we had won all the competitions, our prize was a $2,000 grant and a TV show episode dedicated to our solution to Styrofoam. If we won, we actually could change the world.
Looking back, I am reminded of the opportunity for personal growth through innovation. The hard work of designing and presenting a solution to an environmentally harmful piece of trash motivated Kristoff and me to spend significant chunks of time researching and collaborating. Our successes in the local competitions enabled us to test our idea further. The opportunity to present our environmentally innovative idea to scientists, business leaders, and educators shows that big ideas start small and grow. To me, the message was that anyone could impact the environment positively if they try. Who would have thought that a local borough- wide competition would have an everlasting impact on me?