Samhita- Where it All Began

Hello there fellow scientists, experts, and engineers, and welcome to my blog, “Swarming With Samhita!" Today, I am going to discuss entering this marvelous competition and how I felt during this adventure!

Before I began, I would quickly like to thank 3M and Discovery for giving me this life-changing opportunity and providing me with a mentor to guide me throughout the summer. I am super excited to begin this journey, and make my project a soon-to-be reality!

My sister had participated in 7th grade and was a State Merit Winner for New Jersey, and with that, it inspired me to enter the challenge. So I did in 6th grade, with my project "SmartApparel: A Low-Cost form of Smart Clothing for Better Patient Monitoring in Hospitals," and became a State Merit Winner for New Jersey. I was elated with becoming a state merit winner, but I strived further to become a finalist. This year, I took the plunge and participated once again with my project "Robotic Swarms." And before I knew it, there was press release swarming around (get the joke?) about the top 10 finalists, and I was one of them! It was a dream come true, and to this day, I am still mind-blown about this incredible accomplishment! 

Let's backtrack to where my submission began: the video. Creating a two-minute video was much more complicated then I imagined. Fitting in tons of information in a brief period was going to be difficult, but I was up for the challenge. Making my video was amusing; I especially had loads of fun putting the video pieces together and creating my video! However, something I encountered while editing was that I hadn't edited one video for over 6 months! I was VERY rusty and therefore took about three hours editing a 2-minute video. But overall, I can say that without a doubt, it was an exciting experience. 

After my application, the worst part had to arrive: the wait. The wait I had to suffer from is unlike any other; the agony was for knowing if you were a finalist! Though my family was calm, unbothered, and peaceful, I was probably the exact opposite; if there were three words to describe my existence waiting for the finalists to be announced, it would probably be "a nervous wreck." I was even counting down the days to June, and when it hit June 1, and the finalists still weren't announced, I ultimately transferred to "panic mode." However, I learned to calm down eventually and silently waited for what seemed like FOREVER. Suddenly, one day, my parents told me that we were visiting my cousin's house, which I found exceedingly puzzling, because of the pandemic. No questions asked, I went along, and got ready to go. While waiting and reading a science magazine, my parents told me to sit down in a chair and handed me their phone and then started recording me. That is when I knew something was up. I was pretty dazed and distracted during the call until I heard these exact words: "... I was calling in regards to your submission for the 3M competition..." NO WAY, I thought, as I began to eliminate options for what the call could possibly be about. First of all, it couldn't be telling me I was a state merit winner, because I was already one last year, and that couldn't be repeated. Second, I couldn't have won the whole thing because the final event was in October, remarkably far away. Plus, there couldn't be something I missed in my application, I quadruple checked it. It had to be that I was a finalist, and for some reason, I felt proud that I knew about 10 seconds before I was told. So, I exaggerated my reaction to making the memories for my family significant. But after they said to me that this wasn't for themselves, but to be created into a video for all the finalists, I realized that I definitely overdid my reaction. And when I saw it, you don't even how embarrassed I was that other people would see it.

Aside from me still being crazed to this day, my family is thrilled. In fact, I want everyone reading to take just a second to appreciate your parents, who did everything to bring you to who you are today: an incredible, world-changing person. My parents are the ones who inspired me to begin robotics, which sparked an interest at first sight. They have been supportive of my fulfillment and continue to congratulate me on this day! 

At first, when my principal sent a letter to my school about 3M, I anticipated my friends' reactions. To my astonishment, they were extremely kind and supportive and felicitated me with compliments and praise. 

Now, thinking of winning this competition and being named "America's Top Young Scientist" seems so close. It would be crazy to imagine deserving this incredible title and recognition internationally. If I won, I would donate the money to foundations like Saint Jude's, and save some for my distant family. With this title, I would spread my project and get people involved. Hopefully, if I win, my project will be known worldwide someday, and countless lives will be more beneficial because of swarm intelligence. 

If you have come this far, I appreciate you reading! I hope you are all staying safe in this pandemic; know that you aren't alone. Goodbye!

~ Samhita Pokkunuri