Harsha- 2020, and why YSC was special this year

I had a personal interest to do something about air quality. Just like many of you who are allergic to pollen and other micro-particles, I always wished for better air quality each day and wanted to do something about it. For much of 2019, I tinkered with parts from my garage to build build honeycomb - a prototype of a low-cost method to reduce indoor air pollution. After much testing when I was eager and hopeful to present this idea in a local county fair or in my school science fair. And then the great shutdown of 2020 hit. So the online format of YSC was just the right vehicle for me to bring this idea out. And when my entry made the finalist list, I was super happy. Though I knew I had something really worthwhile on hand, YSC finalist selection felt like a great validation.

The making of this video was very different. I wouldn't call it challenging but different. Not only I had to have nice content, but I had to focus on how to make the video engaging for all audiences not just the judges. Borrowing the idea from cable news channels, I became a news reader with side visuals and it worked out very well. I was careful to limit my content, as I did not want even this short video to feel too rushed. For future participants reading this blog, I would suggest to make it in such a way that even a non-science person would find it interesting. I had to carefully pick very few visuals and leave out the rest. At times, it felt like a making and editing a real movie. Ok, I think I am getting ahead of myself now. But I have to say I enjoyed making the movie as much as I enjoyed working on my project.

On 8th June, when the call came from Discovery Education, I was thrilled! So were my parents, sister and grandmother. For the next few days, I was a celebrity at home as the news travelled far and wide on our family social media groups. I got congratulatory calls from family members from India too! The real surprise was when my Dad's colleagues saw my name in news and called my Dad congratulating him! It was unreal, a little uncomfortable but cool! I was really impressed on how 3M and Discovery Education very quickly organized the mentor meetings and setup the tools for our summer mentoring. My mentor, Dr. Ann Fornof was so nice and friendly that I felt I knew her for long. Not only is she an expert in her field, but she knew details of my project already. I hope to learn a lot from our interaction this summer and am really thankful to 3M and Discovery Education for this wonderful opportunity of a lifetime! Whether I win or not, it is going to be a great few months. And if I win, I might put the prize money into a cause I am passionate about. I haven't decided yet. Worst case, it might just be a seed fund for my college! Track this page for my future posts - I will be sharing a lot of interesting updates! And good luck to all finalists this year as well as future paricipants!

- Harsha Pillarisetti